RADAR on Specialty Pharmacy

Industry Expert Maintains That Specialty Pharmacy Market Has Reached ‘Inflection Point’

Multiple trends are occurring within the specialty pharmacy industry that could have a huge impact on the space, maintained longtime industry expert Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., CEO of Drug Channels Institute, during a recent webinar. Those include greater competition among specialty products, a slowing of payer spending on specialty drugs and more vertical integration among both payers and providers. “We’re at kind of an inflection point in the specialty market,” he contended during the July 29 webinar, titled Specialty Drugs Update: Trends, Controversies, and Outlook.

Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Is Poised to Become Reality

It appears that for the first time, HHS will be able to negotiate prices of some prescription drugs in Medicare. The pharma industry has long resisted such efforts, and it remains to be seen what the impact of the legislation, if passed, will be on manufacturers’ drug discounts and rebates.
On Aug. 7, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday. If it passes as anticipated, President Joe Biden is projected to sign it into law shortly thereafter.

News Briefs: ICER Says Evidence for Beti-Cel Demonstrates Net Health Benefit

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) unanimously determined that evidence for bluebird bio, Inc.’s betibeglogene autotemcel gene therapy “is adequate to demonstrate that the net health benefit of beti-cel is superior to that of standard clinical management,” it said in a final evidence report published July 19. “Given the high costs of standard care, cost-effectiveness modeling finds beti-cel meets commonly accepted value thresholds at an anticipated price of $2.1 million — if that price is subject to an 80% payback for treatment failure,” stated ICER in a press release. The FDA’s Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee (CTGTAC) unanimously voted in June in support of approval for the treatment of people with beta thalassemia who require regular red blood cell transfusions. The FDA is expected to make a decision on the application by Aug. 19.

Payers, Dermatologists Say They Are Interested in New Psoriasis Topicals Vtama, Zoryve

Two new drugs to treat plaque psoriasis are adding to the topical options available to treat the condition. Both payers and dermatologists have expressed interest in the agents, according to Zitter Insights, and the class remains a high priority for payer management.

On May 23, the FDA approved Roivant Sciences subsidiary Dermavant Sciences, Inc.’s Vtama (tapinarof) cream for the topical treatment of plaque psoriasis in adults, regardless of disease severity. The company said the agent is the first and only FDA-approved steroid-free topical medication in its class. Dosing of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonist is once daily on affected areas, and the drug has no restrictions on length of use. The price for one tube of the drug is $1,325.

New FDA Approvals: FDA Expands Patient Population for Diacomit

July 14: The FDA expanded the patient population of Biocodex, Inc.’s Diacomit (stiripentol) for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome in people between the ages of 6 months to 2 years and weighing at least 7 kg who are taking clobazam. The agency first approved the treatment on Aug. 20, 2018. The drug is available as a capsule and an oral suspension. Dosing is 50 mg/kg/day for both routes of administration. Drugs.com lists the price of 60 250 mg capsules and 60 250 mg powder for reconstitution as more than $1,589.

July 14: The FDA expanded the label of Pfizer Inc.’s Xalkori (crizotinib) to include the treatment of people at least 1 year old with unresectable, recurrent or refractory inflammatory anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive myofibroblastic tumors. The agency initially approved the kinase inhibitor on Aug. 26, 2011. The FDA gave the agent orphan drug designation and granted the application priority review; that review used the Assessment Aid, a voluntary submission from the applicant to assist the FDA in its analysis. Dosing for the newest indication of the capsule in adults is 250 mg twice daily. The recommended pediatric dosage is 280 mg.m2 twice daily based on body surface area. Drugs.com lists the price of 60 250 mg capsules as more than $20,657.

Researchers Examine CF, UC/Crohn’s Adherence, Say Specialty Pharmacies ‘Could Help Reduce Medical Burden’

Two recent studies of specialty-drug treated conditions examined the impact of adherence on hospitalizations and medical costs. Findings of the studies — one on cystic fibrosis (CF) and the other on ulcerative colitis (UC)/Crohn’s disease — from AllianceRx Walgreens Prime (which changed its name to AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy in late June) demonstrate the importance of specialty pharmacy interventions in helping keep patients adherent to therapy.

The study posters were presented at the recent International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research 2022 Conference held in Washington, D.C.

News Briefs: Roe v. Wade Reversal Causes Methotrexate Access Issues

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, some people with autoimmune conditions are having access issues with certain medications, including methotrexate, according to Medical News Today. While that drug can be used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and some cancers, it also is used to induce abortions to terminate ectopic pregnancies. Some pharmacists are not dispensing it for fear of being charged with a crime in states that have banned it for ending pregnancies. It also can lead to birth defects, so people of child-bearing age are advised to be on two forms of birth control while taking it, and some rheumatologists are no longer prescribing it due to the risk of accidental pregnancy and the inability for patients to get an abortion. The American College of Rheumatology released a statement noting that it is “aware of the emerging concerns surrounding access to needed treatments such as methotrexate after the recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. We are following this issue closely to determine if rheumatology providers and patients are experiencing any widespread difficulty accessing methotrexate, or if any initial disruptions are potentially temporary due to the independent actions of pharmacists trying to figure out what is and isn’t allowed where they practice.”

U.S. Sees First Ophthalmologic Biosimilar Launch in Crowded, High-Cost Space

The U.S. market recently welcomed the first ophthalmologic biosimilar onto the market: Samsung Bioepis Co., Ltd. and Biogen Inc.’s Byooviz (ranibizumab-nuna), which references Roche Group unit Genentech USA, Inc.’s Lucentis (ranibizumab). While the agent is entering what is becoming a fairly crowded space, it will offer a cost-effective option for payers, say industry sources.

On Sept. 20, 2021, the FDA approved Byooviz for the treatment of neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), macular edema following retinal vein occlusion (RVO) and myopic choroidal neovascularization (mCNV). Under an agreement with Genentech, Samsung Bioepis and Biogen were not able to market the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor in the U.S. until June 2022. Biogen Inc. and Samsung Bioepis Co., Ltd. said on June 2 that they had launched Byooviz, and the medication became commercially available on July 1. The list price of the intravitreal injection is $1,130 per single use vial, which is 40% less than Lucentis’ list price.

Report Shows Evolution in Utilization Management for Specialty Drugs

While plan sponsors continue to use traditional utilization management (UM) tools for specialty drugs, some of these tactics have evolved over the years, as well as been joined by newer ones, such as new-to-market formulary blocks, according to a new report from Pharmaceutical Strategies Group (PSG), an EPIC company. And plans’ tracking of specialty spend under the medical benefit has improved, with 70% of respondents having this capability, up from 50% in 2019, according to the 2021 Trends in Specialty Drug Benefit Design Report.

The report, which is co-sponsored by Roche Group member Genentech USA, Inc., is the ninth annual version. It previously was published under the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) brand.

New FDA Approvals: FDA Grants Additional Indication to CellCept

June 6: The FDA expanded the label of Roche Group member Genentech USA, Inc.’s CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) to include, in combination with other immunosuppressants, prophylaxis of organ rejection in people at least 3 months old who have received an allogenic heart transplant or an allogenic liver transplant. The agency first approved the drug on May 3, 1995. Dosing for the newest uses is based on body surface area and indication. The drug is available as a capsule, tablet, oral suspension and intravenous injectable. Website GoodRx.com lists the price of 60 500 mg tablets as more than $1,070.

June 7: The FDA granted another indication to Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Dupixent (dupilumab) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in people between the ages of 6 months and 5 years whose disease is not adequately controlled with topical prescription therapies or when those therapies are not advisable. The agency initially approved the subcutaneous injectable on March 28, 2017. The FDA gave the new indication priority review. Dosing for people weighing 5 kg to less than 15 kg is 200 mg every four weeks; for those weighing 15 kg to less than 30 kg, dosing is 300 mg every four weeks. The drug’s list price, regardless of dose, is $3,384.83 per carton, which includes either two prefilled pens or two prefilled syringes.