Cell and Gene Therapies

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.


Newer Drugs for ALL Are Hitting the U.S. Market, Potentially Meeting Unmet Need in Treatment

The FDA has approved multiple new agents for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) — which is also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia — and recently converted an accelerated approval it had given one of them to full. However, even with all these options, respondents to a Zitter Insights survey said that unmet need exists in treating the disease.

On June 21, 2023, the FDA granted full approval to Amgen Inc.’s Blincyto (blinatumomab) for the treatment of adults and pediatric patients with CD19-positive B-cell precursor ALL first or second complete remission with minimal residual disease (MRD) greater than or equal to 0.1%. The agency first approved the CD19-directed CD3 T-cell engager on Dec. 3, 2014; the accelerated approval for MRD-positive B-cell ALL was granted on March 29, 2018.


PSG Report Shows Double-Digit Specialty Drug Trend, but Opportunities for Savings Exist

Specialty drug trend continues to be in consistent double digits, with increases due to both spend and trend. That’s one of the findings of the 2023 Artemetrx Specialty Spend & Trend Report from the Pharmaceutical Strategies Group (PSG), an EPIC company. And with the specialty drug pipeline continuing to pump out more and more expensive agents, opportunities for savings exist through the use of biosimilars and generic specialty drugs, among other strategies.

Published July 25, the report is sponsored by Walmart Specialty Pharmacy and includes data from 2022. Findings are based on an analysis of 347 million medical claims and 133 million pharmacy claims from PSG’s Artemetrx book of business. Artemetrx is a proprietary SaaS platform developed by PSG. This is the seventh annual version of the report, which started under the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) moniker. In April 202, MJH Life Sciences acquired PBMI’s trademarks, conference, website, education and membership assets, while the current and future research and analytics projects remained with PSG.


PBMs Weigh Coverage of New Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia A Gene Therapies

The FDA last month approved two new gene therapies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and hemophilia A, and major PBMs tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that they have not yet decided how to cover the new treatments. If current trends are any indication, health plans will impose strict utilization management requirements and attempt to negotiate outcomes-based reimbursement pacts with the treatments’ manufacturers.

The FDA on June 22 granted accelerated approval to Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc.’s Elevidys (delandistrogene moxeparvovec-rokl), the DMD treatment. It will have a list price of $3.2 million. BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.’s Roctavian (valoctocogene roxaparvovec), for hemophilia A, gained full FDA approval on June 29, and will have a list price of $2.9 million. Both therapies are administered as a one-time dose. Roctavian also typically requires an indefinite period of simultaneous treatment with corticosteroids to reduce patients’ immune-system response to the gene therapy.


New FDA Approvals: FDA Expands Label of Pfizer’s Abrilada

June 14: The FDA expanded the label of Pfizer Inc.’s Abrilada (adalimumab-afzb) to include the treatment of moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa in adults. The agency first approved the biosimilar of AbbVie Inc.’s Humira (adalimumab) on Nov. 15, 2019. Dosing starts with 160 mg via subcutaneous injection on day one or split over two consecutive days, then 80 mg on day 15, and then on day 29 and subsequent doses, 40 mg every week or 80 mg every other week. Drugs.com lists the price of two 40 mg/0.4 mL kits and two 40 mg/0.8 mL kits of Humira, each with two devices, as more than $7,299. Pfizer told AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that it would launch the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor in “late third-quarter/early fourth-quarter 2023” per the settlement of patent litigation with AbbVie.


Report: Specialty Drug Management Grows More Complex, as Plans Have Array of Strategies

Specialty drug management continues to be of utmost importance to plan sponsors, which are implementing a variety of levers to try to keep spending in check while making sure their beneficiaries are receiving appropriate care. Pharmaceutical Strategies Group (PSG), an EPIC company, recently released its 2023 Trends in Specialty Drug Benefits Report, which examines the use of these strategies and overall trends in managing these costly medications.

The report, released May 3, is the 10th annual report; it previously was published under the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI) brand. Conducted from Sept. 20, 2022, through Oct. 21, 2022, the survey included 182 benefits leaders from employers, unions/Taft-Hartley plans and health plans representing plan sponsors of approximately 86.7 million covered lives. Genentech USA, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, co-sponsored the report with PSG.


FDA’s Marks Emphasizes Agency’s Support of Moving CGT Space Forward

While the cell and gene therapy (CGT) industry has shown remarkable progress, it still has some barriers to overcome. The FDA is taking numerous steps to help bring these products onto the market, asserted Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), the unit that oversees biological products, including vaccines, allergenic products, blood and blood products, and cellular, tissue, and gene therapies, at a recent public appearance.

“I think the bottom line here for us is that we are very committed to helping move this field forward for populations of all sizes,” particularly for small populations, which is “one of the areas that is our highest medical need right now,” said Marks during a session in the CGT track at the Reuters Pharma USA conference, held March 28 and 29 in Philadelphia.


CGT Manufacturers Face Variety of Commercialization Challenges

Sessions during the cell and gene therapy (CGT) track at the Reuters Pharma USA conference, held March 28 and 29 in Philadelphia, echoed much of the same advice for pharma companies commercializing one of these products. Starting the process early and collaborating with and forming partnerships with a variety of stakeholders are critical steps to success, multiple speakers emphasized.

Companies looking to bring a cell and gene therapy (CGT) to market should start preparing early on issues such as manufacturing and logistical matters, market access and patient access, advised Warner Biddle, senior vice president and global head of commercial for Kite Pharma, a Gilead Sciences, Inc. company. Kite has two chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies on the U.S. market: Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) — the second CAR-T to secure FDA approval — and Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel).


Bladder Cancer Gene Therapy Adstiladrin Offers New Option in Slim Category

In late 2022, the FDA approved the first gene therapy for bladder cancer, Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ Adstiladrin (nadofaragene firadenovec-vncg). Almost three-quarters of oncologists surveyed by Zitter Insights expressed at least moderate interest in the agent, and payers said they expect to manage the drug to label. While the drug gives another treatment alternative to a much-needed area, it likely will continue to put financial pressure on payers, industry experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT.

On Dec. 16, the FDA approved Adstiladrin for the treatment of adults with high-risk, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-unresponsive non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) with carcinoma in situ (CIS) with or without papillary tumors. The agency gave the novel adenovirus vector-based gene therapy priority review, breakthrough therapy and fast track designations. Dosing is once every three months into the bladder via a urinary catheter. The company said it expects the therapy to be available in the second half of 2023.


Point32Health Exec Says Outcomes-Based Pacts Can Unite Payers, Pharma

While drugs are increasingly hitting the market that address unmet needs and even offer cures for some rare diseases, private insurers are highly concerned about such therapies’ eye-popping price tags, a recent survey indicated. But one prominent payer executive who spoke during AHIP’s Medicare, Medicaid, Duals & Commercial Markets Forum suggested that insurers are better off working collaboratively with drugmakers to ensure prices are tied to value — rather than engaging in an inter-industry war of words.

“More and more we’re seeing drugs come through with limited evidence through accelerated approval processes, which generally is a marker for an unmet need, which is a good thing. But the evidence can be thin,” said Michael Sherman, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer of Point32Health. During a March 14 panel at the AHIP forum, Sherman pointed to the example of Makena (hydroxyprogesterone caproate), a drug that aims to reduce preterm births but failed to prove clinical effectiveness in trials conducted after it received accelerated approval. With the FDA poised to make a final decision on the drug’s status, Clovis Pharma Group recently announced it would voluntarily pull Makena off the market.