PBMs Place Biosimilars on Preferred Tiers, yet Adoption Varies by Product

PBMs often place biosimilar medications on preferred formulary tiers soon after the drugs hit the market, a change from a few years ago, when payers were more hesitant to cover biosimilars, according to a recent Cardinal Health report. However, one of the report’s authors tells AIS Health that PBMs in some cases have kept the reference biologic product on their preferred tier as well, leading to slower adoption of biosimilars.

For instance, Fran Gregory, Pharm.D., Cardinal Health’s vice president of emerging therapies, notes that CVS Health Corp.’s Caremark, The Cigna Group’s Express Scripts and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Rx all added Humira (adalimumab) biosimilars to their national preferred formularies when they launched last year. Gregory says those PBMs were “very strategic” about which of the nine Humira biosimilars to place in a preferred tier, analyzing the wholesale acquisition costs (WACs) and concentrations of the products and tailoring them “based on the lines of business they’re serving.” But the payers all put the same tier as the biosimilars, which Gregory says “is where the challenge lies” with adoption.

© 2024 MMIT
Tim Casey

Tim Casey

Tim has worked as a reporter and editor for more than 20 years. Before joining AIS Health in December 2021, he was a business reporter covering the commercial real estate industry’s capital markets for four years. He previously covered health care business issues for two medical publishing companies and high school, college and professional sports for the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Tim has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and an M.B.A. from Georgetown University.

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