RADAR on Specialty Pharmacy

New FDA Approvals: The FDA Granted an Additional Indication to Lynparza

March 11: The FDA granted an additional indication to AstraZeneca and Merck & Co., Inc.’s Lynparza (olaparib) for the treatment of people with germline BRCA-mutated human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative high-risk early breast cancer who have been treated with chemotherapy before or after surgery. The agency first approved the tablet on Dec. 19, 2014. Dosing is 300 mg twice daily. Website Drugs.com lists the price of 60 150 mg tablets as more than $7,778.

March 11: The FDA approved another use for Myriad Genetics, Inc.’s BRACAnalysis CDx test as a companion diagnostic to identify people with germline BRCA-mutated HER2-negative, high-risk early-stage breast cancer who may benefit from Lynparza (see above brief). The test detects and interprets germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants. The agency initially approved the test on Dec. 19, 2014.

News Briefs: Medicare Will Cover Monoclonal Antibodies Targeting Amyloid for Alzheimer’s Disease

Medicare will cover monoclonal antibodies targeting amyloid for Alzheimer’s disease treatment that receive traditional FDA approval under coverage with evidence development (CED), according to an April 7 final National Coverage Determination (NCD). In addition, for drugs that have not shown a clinical benefit or that receive accelerated approval, Medicare will cover them in FDA- or National Institutes of Health-approved trials. CMS will cover the medication and any related services for Medicare beneficiaries participating in these trials. The move follows a proposed NCD released Jan.11, which received more than 10,000 stakeholder comments.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey filed a lawsuit (No. 1:22-cv-10493) against Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. regarding Eylea (aflibercept), a medication approved for certain retinal diseases, including wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration. The suit alleges that Regeneron transferred funds to the Chronic Disease Fund, which offset patient out-of-pocket costs for Eylea but not its competitors. The lawsuit argues that this is an illegal kickback under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Optum Launches Specialty Platform Aimed at Better Care, Lower Costs

Optum, Inc. recently unveiled Optum Specialty Fusion, a specialty drug management solution that’s focused on streamlining care for people on those products and lowering medication costs. According to the company, which is part of UnitedHealth Group, the approach has the potential to deliver 17% total cost savings in health plans’ medical and pharmacy spend.

Providers are able to request prior authorization for specialty agents via a portal, which then compares treatment options, including their costs, across both the medical and the pharmacy benefit. According to the company, “informed by Optum data and insights, Specialty Fusion provides savings options such as preferred products, dosage management policies, best sites of care and additional cost-control levers such as available discounts and pharmacy networks.” The solution narrows down treatment options to the ones or one that “makes the most clinical and financial sense” and provides approval for that treatment in real time, regardless of the benefit the agent falls under. Optum maintains that this approach lessens “administrative hassle and results in an expected 50% faster access to therapy for patients, while lowering costs.” Specialty Fusion is available for large health plans.

Horizon and CINJ Are Piloting Home Infusion Oncology Program

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, to say the health care system was disrupted is an understatement. Many people undergoing treatment for cancer rightfully were concerned about their potential exposure to the virus and were hesitant to leave their homes for care. In order to continue treating some patients, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey partnered with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and RWJBarnabas Health to start a pilot to offer home infusion of cancer treatments and telemedicine support for eligible people, the first such program in the state.

In addition to not putting people at risk of acquiring an illness, home infusion means that people don’t have to travel for treatment. It also provides them with one-on-one care, close monitoring during infusions and the ability to schedule treatments around their personal schedule. These benefits are especially important for people with compromised immune systems.

Adbry, Others Add to Growing Class Of Atopic Dermatitis Biologics

The FDA has approved a handful of drugs to treat atopic dermatitis recently. Among them is LEO Pharma Inc.’s Adbry (tralokinumab-ldrm), an interleukin-13 (IL-13) antagonist. According to a Zitter Insights survey, payers may take a bit of a restrictive approach in managing the drug. And with multiple new biologics approved for the condition and more potential agents coming onto the market, payers may impose more utilization management strategies on the therapeutic class as a whole, say industry experts.

On Dec. 28, the FDA approved Adbry for the treatment of people at least 18 years old with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis whose disease is not adequately controlled with topical prescription therapies or when those treatments are not advisable. The decision made it the first biologic that LEO Pharma has launched in the U.S. Recommended dosing is an initial dose of 600 mg via four 150 mg subcutaneous injections and then 300 mg every other week.

Magellan Rx, Zipline Will Offer Drone Delivery of Specialty Drugs

Magellan Health’s PBM, Magellan Rx Management, recently unveiled a partnership with Zipline that will deliver prescription medications, including specialty drugs, to patients’ homes through the use of autonomous aircraft. The program will provide convenience to customers, maintains Mostafa Kamal, CEO of Magellan Rx Management, as well as reduce emissions compared with traditional delivery methods.

Specialty Pharmacies Can Tackle SDOH Issues, Boost Adherence

Social determinants of health (SDOH), which researchers have suggested account for up to 80% of health outcomes, can also complicate medication adherence, which can be particularly challenging for people taking specialty drugs. Specialty pharmacies are uniquely suited to address these issues and provide the support and resources that their patients need to overcome barriers to effective treatment, industry experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT.

According to the Healthy People 2030 initiative from HHS’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, SDOH “are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” These factors can be grouped into five areas:

New FDA Approvals: FDA Approves Pyrukynd

Feb. 17: The FDA approved Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Pyrukynd (mitapivat) for the treatment of hemolytic anemia in adults with pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency. It is a first-in-class, oral PK activator and the first FDA-approved disease-modifying therapy for the disease. The agency gave the drug priority review and orphan drug designation. Dosing for the tablet is 5 mg twice daily. Its annual cost is $334,880.

Feb. 21: The FDA gave an additional approval to Foundation Medicine, Inc.’s FoundationOne CDx as a companion diagnostic to identify people with microsatellite instability high status solid tumors who may be candidates for treatment with Merck and Co., Inc.’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab). The company says it is the first FDA-approved diagnostic for this use. The CDx has 26 companion diagnostic claims and two group claims across 27 targeted therapies.

News Briefs: Teva Launches First Generic of Revlimid in U.S.

Teva Pharmaceuticals Ltd. launched the first generic version of Bristol Myers Squibb unit Celgene Corp.’s Revlimid (lenalidomide) in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg and 25 mg strengths in the United States on March 7. The FDA approved the drug from Teva U.S. affiliate Arrow International Ltd. and Natco Pharma Ltd. on May 21, 2021. The companies have tentative approval for the 2.5 mg and 20 mg strengths due to an exclusivity issue: The FDA has approved Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.’s lenalidomide for those dosages. The product is approved for three indications: (1) multiple myeloma in combination with dexamethasone, (2) transfusion-dependent anemia due to low- or intermediate-1-risk myelodysplastic syndromes associated with a deletion 5q abnormality with or without additional cytogenic abnormalities and (3) mantle cell lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed after at least two treatments, including bortezomib. The launch is limited, and through an agreement with Celgene, the companies are allowed to sell “mid-single-digit percentages” of Revlimid’s total volume this month, a figure that gradually will increase to one-third of the volume. Beginning Jan. 31, 2026, Teva can sell the drug without volume limitation. Multiple companies are expected to launch Revlimid generics in the U.S. this year.

2022 Outlook: Notable FDA Approvals, Payer Strategies Are Specialty Trends

The specialty pharmacy industry will continue its growth in 2022, experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT. Multiple agents for rare diseases are poised for FDA approval, and the market may see additional cell and gene therapies. In addition, payers will carry on their efforts to keep prices for specialty medications affordable, among other trends.

AIS Health: What are some specialty pharmacy issues to keep an eye on in 2022, and why?