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.


New FDA Approvals: FDA Gives Accelerated Approval to Mirati’s Krazati

Dec. 12: The FDA gave accelerated approval to Mirati Therapeutics, Inc.’s Krazati (adagrasib) for the treatment of adults with KRASG12C-mutated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), as determined by an FDA-approved test (see below brief), who have received at least one systemic therapy. Dosing for the tablet is 600 mg twice daily. The drug is priced at $19,750 per month.

Dec. 12: The FDA approved two companion diagnostics for Krazati (see above brief): Agilent Technologies Inc.’s Agilent Resolution ctDx FIRST assay and Qiagen N.V.’s Qiagen therascreen KRAS RGQ PCR kit. A liquid biopsy next-generation sequencing assay, the Agilent test detects genomic alterations in circulating tumor DNA from plasma. The Qiagen test, first approved July 6, 2012, is a tissue-based assay.


2022 Saw Continued Approvals, Uptake of Biosimilars

Following the FDA’s March 6, 2015, approval of the first biosimilar in the United States — Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s Sandoz unit — these agents have continued to gain market share, even though not all that have been approved have launched. And while the European Union approved its first biosimilar, Sandoz’s Omnitrope (somatropin), almost a decade earlier on April 12, 2006, the U.S. outpaced the EU in biosimilar approvals in the eight-year post-launch period 40 to 15. Last year continued the trend, with the FDA approving seven new biosimilars. AIS Health, a division of MMIT, asked some industry experts about the agents’ impact over the past year.


Expect Industry Impact From Vertical Integration, Provider M&A Activity, Humira Biosimilars

Multiple trends within the pharmaceutical industry and the broader health care services market currently are underway and likely to persist into 2023, said Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., CEO of Drug Channels Institute, during a Dec. 16 webinar titled Drug Channels Outlook 2023. Others, such as the launch of the first biosimilar versions of Humira (adalimumab) are set to take place in the upcoming year. In this first of a two-part series, AIS Health highlights the first half of the trends projected by the longtime industry expert.


Express Scripts, Optum Add Humira Biosimilars to 2023 Formularies

As multiple biosimilars to AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) are set to hit the market in 2023, two of the largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in recent weeks made favorable coverage decisions for the soon-to-debut drugs. The FDA has approved seven Humira biosimilars so far, with Amgen’s Amjevita set to launch first, in January 2023. Bloomberg on Nov. 15 reported Optum Rx will cover up to three of the new biosimilars on the same tier as Humira on its 2023 formularies, while Cigna Corp.’s Express Scripts on Dec. 5 said it will cover the biosimilars as preferred products on its “largest formularies.” The PBM said it will “continue to evaluate all biosimilar products to Humira….and will provide updates related to specific changes as available.” Combined, the two PBMs and their corresponding payer units cover nearly 15 million people on their Medicare formularies, according to data from MMIT Analytics (MMIT is the parent company of AIS Health). Most people (86%) covered under Medicare formularies have access to Humira on the specialty tier, with utilization management restrictions such as step therapy and prior authorization.


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

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) unveiled legislation aimed at boosting competition among biologics and reducing consumer costs for the agents. Introduced on Nov. 17, the Biosimilar Red Tape Elimination Act (S.6) would do away with the FDA requirement for switching studies for biosimilars seeking the interchangeability designation. “Eliminating this barrier would increase access to lower-cost biosimilars and save payers and consumers billions over the next five years,” according to a press release from Lee’s office. In contrast to the European Union, whose European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) recently clarified that all biosimilars approved in the EU are interchangeable, the FDA has created two levels of biosimilars: biosimilars and interchangeable biosimilars. Also quoted in the release was Sarfaraz Niazi, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of biopharmaceutical ciences at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois Chicago, who pointed out that “according to the FDA, ‘biosimilars have no clinically meaningful difference with their reference product,’ so if there is no difference, they should be interchangeable without the extensive and expensive switching and alternating studies in patients.”


Prime Studies Reveal Efficacy, Costs of Specialty Agents

Two recently published studies by Prime Therapeutics LLC shine a light on specialty drug costs. In the first, researchers found that a newer agent for cystic fibrosis is effective, but it is so costly that its related savings in health care services avoided do not offset its cost. The second study showed that a focused communication effort for a transition to a preferred infliximab biosimilar, among other strategies, has resulted in millions of dollars in savings in only the first three months after implementation of the strategy.

Posters on the studies were presented at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Nexus meeting.


IRA, Uncertainties Within Law May Be Challenging for Biopharma

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, starting with a limited set of therapies in 2026. But while some aspects of the law are clear, some uncertainties around others exist. Biopharma companies need to start preparing as much as they can for some of the challenging situations that may arise, recommends one industry expert.

Josh Schimmer, an analyst at Evercore ISI, pointed out during a Nov. 17 webinar hosted by his company that the IRA has “many, many moving parts, some of which are…really quirky, some of which seem a little unsustainable in terms of the dynamic that they might have. It’s going to impact so many companies in this industry sooner or later; some might be spared. But those are probably going to be smaller companies. So the bigger you are, the more likely you are at some point to have to face the IRA.”


Oncologists May Prescribe New Neutropenia Agent Over Others in Class, but Therapy Faces Another Challenge

The FDA recently approved the first novel long-acting granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) in more than 20 years. Payers say they are likely to manage the new agent similar to existing ones, but some oncologists have indicated that they are willing to prescribe it in place of other neutropenia agents, according to Zitter Insights. Still, the leader in the space has a unique quality that has allowed it to continue to retain market share, which may prove challenging for the new drug — at least for the time being.

On Sept. 9, the FDA approved Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Rolvedon (eflapegrastim-xnst) to decrease the incidence of infection, as manifested by febrile neutropenia, in adults with nonmyeloid malignancies receiving myelosuppressive anti-cancer drugs associated with clinically significant incidence of febrile neutropenia. The company developed the drug with South Korea’s Hanmi Pharmaceutical Co. The recommended dose is 13.2 mg administered subcutaneously once per chemotherapy cycle.


Payers Say They Are Seeing Cost Savings From Shifting to Biosimilars

As FDA approvals of biosimilars continue and agents expand into new indications, more payers are using these drugs and seeing cost savings through that utilization, according to Zitter Insights.

When the FDA approved Fresenius Kabi’s Stimufend (pegfilgrastim-fpgk) on Sept. 1, it was the sixth biosimilar of Amgen Inc.’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) that the agency had approved. It also was the 38th biosimilar approved since the first one, Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. division Sandoz Inc.’s Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), was approved March 6, 2015, referencing Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim).