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Perspectives on CMS’s Drug Pricing Proposals

June 13, 2019

When CMS issued the final rule on Medicare Advantage and Part D drug pricing on May 16, the agency touted its policy changes as ensuring consumers get greater transparency into the cost of Part D prescription drugs and enabling MA plans to negotiate better prices for physician-administered medicines in Part C. Yet, after receiving 4,000-plus comments related to pharmacy price concessions on negotiated price, CMS held back, saying it won’t implement this policy for 2020 — or follow through on proposed exceptions to Part D protected drug classes, AIS Health reported.

When CMS issued the final rule on Medicare Advantage and Part D drug pricing on May 16, the agency touted its policy changes as ensuring consumers get greater transparency into the cost of Part D prescription drugs and enabling MA plans to negotiate better prices for physician-administered medicines in Part C. Yet, after receiving 4,000-plus comments related to pharmacy price concessions on negotiated price, CMS held back, saying it won’t implement this policy for 2020 — or follow through on proposed exceptions to Part D protected drug classes, AIS Health reported.

Among numerous provisions, CMS’s final rule implements the statutory prohibition against gag clauses in pharmacy contracts, barring Part D plans from penalizing pharmacies that disclose a lower cash price to enrollees. But the agency decided against implementing a policy redefining negotiated price as the lowest possible, baseline payment to pharmacies.

Leerink analyst Ana Gupte sees industry winners across the board. CMS “did not follow through on its proposal to exclude certain protected drug classes, offering a win for the biopharma industry,” she said in a May 17 note. “Managed Care and PBMs also garnered a win as CMS did not follow through on the proposals to pass through pharmacy pricing concessions in the form of DIR [direct and indirect remuneration] fees to patients through reduced cost sharing.”

Dea Belazi, Pharm.D., president and CEO of AscellaHealth, offers a blunter assessment. “I think the final Part D rule is more rhetoric than anything,” he tells AIS Health.

As for negotiated price, “They’re not ready to do anything on pricing at this point,” Belazi says. “I think CMS, with HHS, opened up a Pandora’s box and realized this is not as easy as it seems and they need more time.”

Radar On Market Access: Outstanding Part D Proposals Created Uncertainty in 2020 Bid Process

June 13, 2019

Medicare Advantage and Part D plan sponsors submitting bids for the 2020 plan year faced a considerable amount of uncertainty compared with recent years. On the Part D side, there was “not only one but two pending regulations — both of which would have had a significant impact on bids — and it was difficult for carriers to know 1) how they should bid and 2) how others might be bidding,” Shelly Brandel, a principal and consulting actuary in the Milwaukee office of Milliman, tells AIS Health.

Medicare Advantage and Part D plan sponsors submitting bids for the 2020 plan year faced a considerable amount of uncertainty compared with recent years. On the Part D side, there was “not only one but two pending regulations — both of which would have had a significant impact on bids — and it was difficult for carriers to know 1) how they should bid and 2) how others might be bidding,” Shelly Brandel, a principal and consulting actuary in the Milwaukee office of Milliman, tells AIS Health.

Perhaps creating the most uncertainty was when HHS would finalize a January proposed rule that would eliminate safe-harbor protections for rebates paid by manufacturers to plan sponsors under Medicare Part D and Medicaid. CMS in Part D bidding guidance posted May 20 confirmed what it had hinted at in an April memo on how bids should be prepared: the rule would not be finalized before the June 3 bid deadline.

If the so-called rebate rule were to be effective Jan. 1, 2020, as HHS proposed, “I think carriers would want to have sufficient time to incorporate those requirements into their contracting for 2020, which obviously would be difficult the later that rule is released,” suggests Brandel.

Meanwhile, CMS on May 16 issued a final rule on MA and Part D drug pricing in which it did not follow through on a proposal to pass through pharmacy pricing concessions in the form of direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees to patients through reduced cost sharing. That gave Part D sponsors needed clarity on how pharmacy DIR should be reported in bids, says Brandel.

Radar On Market Access: Payers Will Likely Use Various Tactics to Manage Zolgensma

June 11, 2019

With the first therapy north of $1 million gaining FDA approval last month, payers likely will implement a variety of strategies to manage Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi), a one-time gene therapy from AveXis, Inc., a Novartis company. For now, many uncertainties exist with respect to the new treatment and what its place will be in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) care, AIS Health reported.

With the first therapy north of $1 million gaining FDA approval last month, payers likely will implement a variety of strategies to manage Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi), a one-time gene therapy from AveXis, Inc., a Novartis company. For now, many uncertainties exist with respect to the new treatment and what its place will be in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) care, AIS Health reported.

According to Lee Newcomer, M.D., principal at Lee N. Newcomer Consulting LLC, payers likely will implement “strict enforcement of the label restrictions, advisory panels to develop clinical criteria for therapy [and] highly specific provider networks to ensure that the therapies are given correctly.”

When it comes to payer strategies, “unlike other conditions, where there might be alternatives that warrant prior authorization or step therapy, here I expect there to be limited management and more care coordination,” Alex Shekhdar, founder of Sycamore Creek Healthcare Advisors, tells AIS Health.

“If I were a payer, I would definitely use prior-authorization for this, but given the nature of the therapy, you can’t use step edits — it doesn’t really make sense clinically,” says an industry expert who declines to be identified. “But prior authorization really needs to occur extremely quickly.”

“Plans will likely implement a medical policy to ensure appropriate use and ensure adequate monitoring,” says April M. Kunze, Pharm.D., senior director, clinical formulary development and trend management strategy at Prime Therapeutics LLC. “This is a one-time IV infusion; any repeated administration has not been evaluated and will likely not be covered until there is data to support that use.”

One concern among some payers is whether members will attempt to be treated with both Zolgensma and Spinraza (nusinersen), another expensive therapy for SMA. “It’s not clear yet if the combination or the sequence is better care until further studies are completed,” says Newcomer.

MMIT Reality Check on Urothelial/Bladder Cancer (Jun 2019)

June 7, 2019

According to our recent payer coverage analysis for urothelial/bladder cancer treatments, combined with news from key healthcare influencers, market access is shifting in this drug landscape.

According to our recent payer coverage analysis for urothelial/bladder cancer treatments, combined with news from key healthcare influencers, market access is shifting in this drug landscape.

To help make sense of this new research, MMIT’s team of experts analyzes the data and summarizes the key findings for you. The following are brief highlights. To read the full piece, including payer coverage, drug competition and prescriber trends, click here.

Payer Coverage: A review of market access for urothelial/bladder cancer treatments shows that under the pharmacy benefit, about 24% of the lives under commercial formularies are covered with utilization management restrictions.

Trends: In April 2019, the FDA gave accelerated approval to the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Balversa (erdafitinib).

Trends That Matter for Use of Biologics

June 6, 2019

Almost 5.8 billion prescriptions were dispensed in the United States in 2018, an increase of 2.7% over the previous year, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science’s report Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S.: A Review of 2018 and Outlook to 2023, AIS Health reported.

Almost 5.8 billion prescriptions were dispensed in the United States in 2018, an increase of 2.7% over the previous year, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science’s report Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S.: A Review of 2018 and Outlook to 2023, AIS Health reported.

Retail and mail pharmacies dispensed 127 million specialty prescriptions last year, an increase of 15 million since 2014. In 2018, for the second year in a row, specialty prescription volume grew more than 5% although the medicines accounted for only 2.2% of prescriptions overall. With an increase in the availability of oral and self-injected specialty therapies, these drugs “are increasingly dispensed through retail pharmacies,” said Murray Aitken, executive director of the institute, during a May 6 press call.

The use of biosimilars — which the institute defines on a broader basis than only those therapies approved through the 351(k) pathway — “in terms of volume is still modest,” said Aitken, with these therapies representing less than 2% of the total biologics market in 2018. But in those areas where a biosimilar is available, “there is reasonably rapid uptake.”