Radar on Specialty Pharmacy

New FDA Approvals: FDA Approves BioLineRx’s Aphexda

Sept. 8: The FDA approved BioLineRx Ltd.’s Aphexda (motixafortide) in combination with filgrastim to mobilize hematopoietic stem cells to the peripheral blood for collection and subsequent autologous transplantation in people with multiple myeloma. The agency gave the agent orphan drug designation. Dosing for Aphexda is 1.25 mg/kg based on actual body weight via subcutaneous injection after filgrastim has been administered daily for four days and 10 to 14 hours prior to the start of apheresis. The drug’s price is $5,900 per vial, and the company has said that it expects most patients will need two vials.

Sept. 8: The FDA expanded the label of Sandoz Inc.’s Hyrimoz (adalimumab-adaz) to include the treatment of adults with non-infectious intermediate and posterior uveitis and panuveitis. The agency first approved the biosimilar of AbbVie Inc.’s TNF inhibitor Humira (adalimumab) on Oct. 30, 2018. Dosing starts with 80 mg via subcutaneous injection, followed by 40 mg every other week starting one week after the initial dose. The agent is available in a low-concentration, citrate-free version of its reference drug. The product launched in July with two wholesale acquisition costs: a branded version with a WAC of $6,576 and an unbranded one for $1,315 for a carton of two syringes or autoinjectors.


Study Reveals Outcomes When Adherence to Non-Infused RA Biologics Is Achieved

Findings from a study jointly conducted by AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy and Walgreen Co. reveal the importance of adherence to non-infused biologics for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Specifically, researchers found a connection between adherence and lower medical costs, rates of hospitalization and length of stay (LOS).

Researchers presented the findings on Sept. 20 at the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) Annual Meeting & Expo, which was held Sept. 18-21.

The study used data from 2019-2020 in the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters databases for patients with commercial coverage, and Supplemental or Coordination of Benefits databases for Medicare beneficiaries. It also used the reporting metric of proportion of days covered (PDC) from the Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA), an independent non-profit organization focused on improving safety, adherence and appropriate use of medications.


FDA Broadens Lonsurf Use in Colorectal Cancer

The FDA recently granted another approval to Taiho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Division Taiho Oncology, Inc.’s Lonsurf (trifluridine/tipiracil) in combination with another agent for a type of colorectal cancer. The decision provides another treatment option for a condition that respondents to a Zitter Insights survey regard as in need of more effective therapies.

On Aug. 2, the FDA approved Lonsurf as a single agent or in combination with bevacizumab for the treatment of adults with metastatic colorectal cancer previously treated with fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin- and irinotecan-based chemotherapy, an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug and, if Rat sarcoma (RAS) wild-type, an anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapy. Bevacizumab originally was available as Avastin from Genentech USA, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, but now four biosimilars of it are also on the market: Celltrion USA, Inc.’s Vegzelma (bevacizumab-adcd), Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Alymsys (bevacizumab-maly), Pfizer Inc.’s Zirabev (bevacizumab-bvzr) and Amgen Inc.’s Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb).


Prime, Magellan Rx Offer Value Plus to Help States Negotiate Value-Based Contracts for CGTs

As more and more high-cost therapies, including cell and gene therapies (CGTs), enter the U.S. market, commercial health plans have multiple tools at their disposal to manage these agents. Medicaid plans, however, are limited in what they can do. But a multistate value-based contracting (VBC) tool offered by Magellan Rx Management and its parent company, Prime Therapeutics LLC, is helping Medicaid programs access CGTs and ensuring that the agents’ costs are linked to patient outcomes.

A new Medicaid Pharmacy Insights report, titled The State of Value-Based Contracting: Reinventing the Current Drug Payment Model in Medicaid, notes that Medicaid is usually the largest expenditure in state budgets. States need to be able to offer costly CGTs while also managing their budgets. But various barriers to offering value-based contracts — including a lack of resources to negotiate them, as well as collect data and measure outcomes — have limited adoption of these agreements.


News Briefs: Groups Sue HHS Over Lost Coverage of Certain Medicare Part B Drugs

The Center for Medicare Advocacy and the Community Legal Services clinic at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law filed a class action lawsuit (Case 2:23-cv-01932-DB) against HHS on Sept. 8 on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries who have lost coverage of certain Medicare Part B drugs. Plaintiffs were receiving the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara (ustekinumab) in an outpatient clinic, where the agent was administered by health care professionals and covered under Part B as an agent provided “incident to” a physician’s service due to disabilities that prevent them from self-administration. In October 2021, HHS denied coverage of Stelara under Part B because it had determined that the drug is “usually self-administered by the patient.” HHS did not notify patients about the change, and it did not require providers to issue a notice. One plaintiff had four injections of more than $40,000 each, while another had two injections of about $58,000 each, before they realized that they were responsible for the full cost of the drug. Plaintiffs are seeking “timely, adequate notice” be required when a Part B drug that has been furnished incident to a practitioner’s service is added to the self-administered drug (SAD) list, as well as a modification to Medicare allowing beneficiaries who cannot self-administer a medically necessary drug due to a disability to be able to receive Medicare-covered medications administered by a health care professional, among other requests.


CVS Steps Into Biosimilar Space With New Subsidiary Cordavis

CVS Health is getting into the biosimilars business, the company said in late August, and will officially enter the market on Jan. 1 in partnership with a Humira biosimilar. CVS stressed the importance of driving use of biosimilars and ensuring their supply, which sources say is a positive development. But one industry source questions whether the new company raises potential conflict-of-interest issues.

On Aug. 23, CVS revealed that it had launched the wholly owned subsidiary Cordavis to commercialize and/or co-produce biosimilars in collaboration with drug manufacturers. “Through Cordavis, CVS Health intends to develop a portfolio of products that it expects will facilitate broader access to biosimilars in the U.S. — creating more competition that drives down prices — while encouraging investment in future products,” said the company in a press release.


Now That Humira Biosimilars Have Launched, What Are Lessons Learned for Stelara Biosimilars?

Following the launch of almost 10 biosimilars of AbbVie Inc.’s Humira (adalimumab) this year, 2025 will be another big year for the U.S. biosimilar market, when no less than three versions of Stelara (ustekinumab) from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson are set to become available. Having the experience of assessing multiple competitors with varying attributes could help payers as they prepare for the launches, say industry experts.

Stelara is a human interleukin-12 (IL-12) and -23 (IL-23) antagonist indicated for the treatment of adults with moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease, adults with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis, people at least 6 years old with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for phototherapy or systemic therapy and people at least 6 years old with active psoriatic arthritis.


New FDA Approvals: FDA Gives Accelerated Approval to J&J’s Talvey

Aug. 9: The FDA gave accelerated approval to the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Talvey (talquetamab-tgvs) for the treatment of adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least four lines of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory agent and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody. The review was conducted under Project Orbis in collaboration with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and Switzerland’s Swissmedic; it used the Assessment Aid. The agent, a G protein-coupled receptor class C group 5 member D (GPRC5D)-directed CD3 T-cell engager, is a first-in-class bispecific antibody. Dosing of the subcutaneous injection, which is administered by a qualified health care professional, can be done weekly or biweekly. For weekly dosing, a step-up schedule consists of 0.01 mg/kg on day one, then 0.06 mg/kg on day four, then 0.4 mg/kg on day seven and then 0.4 mg/kg one week later and weekly thereafter. For biweekly dosing, administration starts at 0.01 mg/kg on day one, 0.06 mg/kg on day four, 0.4 mg/kg on day seven, then 0.8 mg/kg on day 10 and then 0.8 mg/kg two weeks later and every two weeks thereafter. The drug’s list price is $45,000 per month, and the company estimates a pricing range of $270,000 to $360,000 for an average treatment duration of six to eight months.


News Briefs: Sen. Mike Lee Reintroduced Biosimilar Red Tape Elimination Act

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) reintroduced the Biosimilar Red Tape Elimination Act (S. 2305), his office said on July 13. The legislation is focused on increasing competition among biologics and lowering consumer costs for them. He first introduced the bill, which would do away with the FDA requirement for switching studies for biosimilars seeking the interchangeability designation, on Nov. 17, 2022. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Clearway Health is working with The Brooklyn Hospital Center to help improve access to specialty pharmacy drugs for underserved patients, Clearway Health said on Aug. 2. The company, which partners with hospitals and health systems to build or improve their own specialty pharmacy programs, said it will help the hospital by broadening its services, decreasing patients’ financial responsibilities, improving patient adherence and boosting clinical outcomes.


Bipartisan Interest in Changing PBM Business Practices Continues to Grow

The year after President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, policymakers have now focused their efforts on PBMs and their business models. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have introduced multiple bills focusing on issues such as the lack of transparency into PBM practices, spread pricing, direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) clawbacks, rebates and anticompetitive behavior. And some industry experts say they are hopeful that such legislation could improve transparency around drug pricing, including in the high-cost specialty arena.

There was much talk but little action around bringing down prescription drug prices during the previous administration, which floated tactics such as implementing a most-favored-nation model that would have tied drug prices in Medicare Parts B and D to other countries’ prices, lowering prices for insulin and distributing $200 prescription drug credits to Part D beneficiaries.