Radar on Specialty Pharmacy

Gilead’s First-in-Class HIV Drug Sunlenca Offers Much-Needed Option

The FDA recently approved a new HIV drug for a small patient population desperately in need of treatments. And the twice-yearly medication’s annual price came below the level that respondents to a Zitter Insights poll said they would consider a good value. The medication comes with both potential advantages and disadvantages for patients, providers and payers, say industry experts.

On Dec. 22, the FDA approved Gilead Sciences, Inc.’s Sunlenca (lenacapavir) for the treatment, in combination with other antiretroviral(s) (ARVs), of HIV-1 infection in heavily treatment-experienced adults with multidrug resistant HIV-1 infection who are failing their current antiretroviral regimen due to resistance, intolerance or safety considerations. The agency gave the first-in-class capsid inhibitor priority review, fast track and breakthrough therapy designations.


Specialty Pharmacies Can Provide Support for Synagis Treatment

Following a severe season of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the U.S., several companies have revealed that they have promising vaccine candidates for various patient populations in the late-stage clinical trial pipeline. The FDA could approve some of them as early as this year, for what is estimated to be a market worth more than $10 billion. Currently, only one agent has FDA approval for RSV prevention, and one specialty pharmacy recently shared with AIS Health, a division of MMIT, how it manages that treatment and members taking it.

The CDC estimates that children younger than 5 years old account for more than 57,000 hospitalizations and about 100 to 500 deaths per year. Older adults experience approximately 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths annually, but no FDA-approved treatments indicated for this population are available.


2023 Outlook: Humira Is Not Only Specialty Drug With Anticipated Biosimilars

One of the biggest events in the specialty pharmacy market is happening this year: the availability of biosimilars to AbbVie Inc.’s top-selling Humira (adalimumab). With its Jan. 31 launch, Amgen Inc.’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) was the first entrant, and others are expected this summer. But biosimilars of other top biologics also are coming down the pike. AIS Health, a division of MMIT, spoke with a variety of industry experts about what they’re watching in this space in 2023.

AIS Health: What kind of impact will be seen from the Humira biosimilars?

Nicole Kjesbo, Pharm.D., director of clinical program development for Prime Therapeutics LLC: Ideally, we’ll see price competition due to multiple biosimilars of Humira launching in 2023.


News Briefs: AstraZeneca Will Withdraw Lumoxiti From the U.S. Market

AstraZeneca will permanently withdraw Lumoxiti (moxetumomab pasudotox-tdfk) from the U.S. market, the company revealed recently. In a letter to health care providers, the company said it will direct its distributors to halt distribution of the agent in August 2023 and will request that those distributors return any Lumoxiti packs. The FDA approved the medication on Sept. 13, 2018, for the treatment of relapsed or refractory hairy cell leukemia in people who had received at least two prior systemic therapies including a purine nucleoside analog. The manufacturer said that the drug’s withdrawal is not related to its safety or efficacy and that the medicine has had “very low clinical uptake” since its approval, “due to the availability of other treatment options and possibly due to the specialized complexity of administration, toxicity prophylaxis and safety monitoring needs for patients.” The company advised providers not to start treatment of the drug. For patients already taking it, providers have “adequate time to complete six cycles of treatment.”


Amjevita, First Biosimilar of Humira, Launches With Two-Tiered Pricing Strategy

More than six years after the FDA approved it, the first biosimilar of AbbVie Inc.’s Humira (adalimumab) has finally launched in the U.S. On Jan. 31, Amgen Inc.’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) became available at two different wholesale acquisition costs — one 55% below Humira’s WAC and one 5% below it — a strategy that acknowledges the lure of rebates within the U.S. market. It remains to be seen whether additional adalimumab biosimilars launching this year will follow suit or explore a different strategy to differentiate themselves.

Initially approved Sept. 23, 2016, Amjevita was the first of eight Humira biosimilars that the FDA had OK’d as of early February. The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor is approved for seven of Humira’s nine indications, including rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis and Crohn’s disease, although the biosimilar is indicated for ulcerative colitis in adults, while Humira is approved for UC in people at least 5 years old. The two Humira indications not on Amjevita’s label are hidradenitis suppurativa and uveitis.


FDA Approves Hemophilia B Gene Therapy, but Its Cost May Pose Access Problems for Payers

The FDA recently approved the fifth and sixth gene therapies, with four of those decisions coming in the second half of 2022. While payer respondents to a Zitter Insights survey have expressed interest in hemophilia B treatment Hemgenix (etranacogene dezaparvovec-drlb), its price may prove to be an obstacle to coverage.

On Nov. 22, the FDA approved uniQure N.V.’s Hemgenix for the treatment of people at least 18 years old with hemophilia B who currently use factor IX prophylaxis therapy or have current or historical life-threatening hemorrhage or have repeated serious spontaneous bleeding episodes. CSL Behring LLC, a CSL business, will market the gene therapy. The agency gave the first-in-class adeno-associated virus A5-based gene therapy — which previously was known as EtranaDez — priority review and orphan and breakthrough therapy designations.


New FDA Approvals: FDA Expands Label of BeiGene’s Brukinsa

Jan. 19: The FDA expanded the label of BeiGene, Ltd.’s Brukinsa (zanubrutinib) to include the treatment of adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma. The agency initially approved the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor on Nov. 14, 2019. The agency granted the application orphan drug designation, and its review used the Assessment Aid. The recommended dose of the capsule is 160 mg twice daily or 320 mg once daily. Drugs.com lists the price of 120 80 mg capsules as more than $15,264.

Jan. 19: The FDA granted accelerated approval to Seagen Inc.’s Tukysa (tucatinib) in combination with trastuzumab for the treatment of adults with RAS wild-type, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive unresectable or metastatic colorectal cancer that has progressed following treatment with fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin- and irinotecan-based chemotherapy. The company says the tyrosine kinase inhibitor is the first FDA-approved treatment in HER2-positive metastatic colorectal cancer. The agency first approved the drug on April 17, 2020. The newest indication had priority review and breakthrough therapy designation. Dosing for the tablet is 300 mg twice daily. Drugs.com lists the price of 60 150 mg tablets as more than $12,389.


2023 Outlook: Expect Rare Disease, Cancer, Immunology Drugs to Have Big Impact

While the launches of biosimilars of AbbVie Inc.’s best-selling drug Humira (adalimumab) are arguably the top entrants expected on the U.S. marketplace in 2023, numerous other specialty agents are expected to join them. AIS Health, a division of MMIT, spoke with multiple industry experts on what they’re keeping an eye on in the late-stage pipeline.

AIS Health: Are there any big specialty drugs expected to see patent expiration — and potentially generic or biosimilar competition — in 2023?

Nicole Kjesbo, Pharm.D., director of clinical program development for Prime Therapeutics LLC: Generics are expected to launch in 2023 for [AstraZeneca’s] Iressa (gefitinib), [Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc’s] Xyrem (sodium oxybate), [Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s] Sandostatin LAR (octreotide acetate) and Thalomid (thalidomide) [from Bristol Myers Squibb unit Celgene Corp.]. Stelara [(ustekinumab) from Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Biotech, Inc.] (IV/SC) and IV Actemra [[(tocilizumab) from Genentech USA, Inc., a member of the Roche Group] lose their exclusivity in 2023.


2023 Outlook: Specialty Drug Tiering, Indication Expansions, IRA Are Some Issues to Watch

Paying for specialty drugs continues to be a top concern for U.S. payers, and employers are utilizing various strategies to try to get a handle on their costs. Some relief should come, at least for Medicare, with the Inflation Reduction Act, which will start to have an impact this year as CMS names its top medications for negotiations on Sept. 1. AIS Health, a division of MMIT, spoke with multiple industry experts about what they’re expecting to see in 2023.

AIS Health: What are some specialty pharmacy issues to keep an eye on in 2023, and why?

Elan Rubinstein, Pharm.D., principal at EB Rubinstein Associates: Increasing acceptance of biosimilars by prescribers and patients may give payers confidence to implement coverage mandates and benefit designs that advantage their use.


More Complex Specialty Drug Management, Pandemic Pressures and Inflation Reduction Act Were Some 2022 Trends

Both the specialty pharmacy market and the home infusion space continued to grow in 2022. Congress finally passed legislation that will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers for the first time, and many of the impacted agents are expected to be specialty medications. As payers grappled with their drug costs, some implemented new utilization management strategies. And the COVID-19 pandemic, now approaching its fourth year, remained a disruptor in both the specialty pharmacy and home infusion markets. AIS Health, a division of MMIT, spoke with various industry experts on multiple 2022 issues impacting those industries.