Drug Approvals

FDA’s Rinvoq Approval Brings Another Ulcerative Colitis Option

The FDA recently gave an additional indication to AbbVie Inc.’s Rinvoq (upadacitinib) in ulcerative colitis, broadening that therapeutic class even more. And while a study revealed some concerns around another agent with a similar mechanism of action, payers and gastroenterologists last year expressed interest in Rinvoq over other late-stage pipeline agents.

On March 16, the FDA expanded the label of Rinvoq to include the treatment of adults with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis who have had an inadequate response or intolerance to at least one tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker. The agency initially approved the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor on Aug. 16, 2019. The recommended starting dose for the tablet is 45 mg once daily for eight weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 15 mg once daily. The wholesale acquisition cost for a 30-day supply is $5,671.26.

Novartis’ Pluvicto Brings New Mechanism of Action to mCRPC Options

A new prostate cancer drug is sparking interest among payers and oncologists alike, according to a survey by Zitter Insights. While the product offers a new mechanism of action for the indication, the manufacturer recently halted production of the therapy temporarily in two of its three global sites “out of an abundance of caution” due to “potential quality issues” that could pose a glitch in initial uptake of the therapy.

On March 23, the FDA approved Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan) (formerly referred to as 177Lu-PSMA-617) for the treatment of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) in people who have been treated with androgen receptor pathway inhibition and taxane-based chemotherapy. The product from Novartis unit Advanced Accelerator Applications USA, Inc. is the first FDA-approved targeted radioligand therapy for eligible people with mCRPC that combines a targeting compound with a therapeutic radioisotope.

Study Finds PBC Drug’s Real-World, Trial Side Effects Are Similar

A recent study of a new drug to treat primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) found that common symptoms experienced by real-world patients were similar to those experienced by people in clinical trials for the agent.

PBC is a chronic disease that causes the liver’s small bile ducts to be destroyed, resulting in permanent liver damage and putting people at risk for liver failure and death. There is no cure for PBC, and the goal of treatment is to slow progression of the condition and manage its symptoms, which most commonly are itching, also known as pruritis, and fatigue.

New FDA Approvals: The FDA Approved Amneal’s Alymsys

April 13: The FDA approved Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Alymsys (bevacizumab-maly) for the treatment of multiple conditions: (1) first- or second-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with intravenous fluorouracil-based chemotherapy; (2) second-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with fluoropyrimidine-irinotecan or fluoropyrimidine-oxaliplatin chemotherapy in people who have progressed on a first-line bevacizumab product; (3) first-line treatment of unresectable, locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel; (4) recurrent glioblastoma in adults; (5) metastatic renal cell carcinoma in combination with interferon alfa; (6) persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer in combination with paclitaxel and cisplatin or paclitaxel and topotecan; and (7) epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer in combination with paclitaxel, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin or topotecan for platinum-resistant recurrent disease in people receiving no more than two prior chemotherapy regimens. The vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor is the third biosimilar of Roche Group member Genentech USA, Inc.’s Avastin (bevacizumab) that the agency has approved. Dosing of the intravenous infusion is based on indication.

News Briefs: Humana Wins in Rite Aid Reimbursement Dispute

AllianceRx Walgreens Prime — a specialty and home delivery pharmacy business owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance — is rebranding to AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy. The move comes after Walgreens assumed full ownership of the business; previously, it was a joint venture between Walgreens and the PBM Prime Therapeutics. In addition to the company’s name change, it promoted Tracey James, R.Ph., from the role of senior vice president to chief operating officer.

Rite Aid Corp. must pay Humana Inc. $123 million after an arbitrator found that the retail pharmacy chain inflated reimbursement claims above the “usual and customary” prices for drugs, Stat reported. Rite Aid’s rival Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. faces a similar lawsuit brought by several Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates. In both cases, the payers allege that the pharmacy chain systematically charged the health plans inflated prices for generic prescription fills. The health plans claim that their contracts with the pharmacies entitled them to reimburse the pharmacies for drug fills at the lowest price that the pharmacies charged for the drug in question, an arrangement called “usual and customary” pricing. However, the health plans say that the pharmacies charged cash-paying customers less than the “usual and customary” price submitted to health plans for reimbursement. Rite Aid plans to ask a federal court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision in the Humana case, per Stat, while the Walgreens-Blues suit is pending.

Novartis’ Pluvicto Brings New Option to mCRPC Treatment

A new prostate cancer drug is sparking interest among payers and oncologists alike, according to a survey by Zitter Insights.

On March 23, the FDA approved Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan) (formerly referred to as 177Lu-PSMA-617) for the treatment of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) in people who have been treated with androgen receptor pathway inhibition and taxane-based chemotherapy. The product from Novartis unit Advanced Accelerator Applications USA, Inc. is the first FDA-approved targeted radioligand therapy for eligible people with mCRPC that combines a targeting compound with a therapeutic radioisotope.

Carvykti Approval Brings Second CAR-T to Multiple Myeloma Treatment

With its Feb. 28 approval, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Legend Biotech USA, Inc.’s Carvykti (ciltacabtagene autoleucel; cilta-cel) becomes the second chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy to treat multiple myeloma. Payers report being less likely to prefer it over some or all other multiple myeloma treatments with a similar indication, but oncologists are showing more enthusiasm for prescribing the new agent, according to Zitter Insights.

The FDA approved Carvykti for the treatment of adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma after at least four lines of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory agent and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody. The product is a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-directed CAR-T agent. The one-time treatment will have a phased launch and will be available through a limited network of certified treatment centers. The FDA gave the drug breakthrough therapy and orphan drug designations. The therapy’s wholesale acquisition cost is $465,000.

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.

Payers Applaud as CMS Stands Ground on Aduhelm Coverage

In a move derided by some health care stakeholders and applauded by others — including private payers — CMS on April 7 finalized its National Coverage Determination (NCD) for an Alzheimer’s treatment that has been steeped in controversy since it received accelerated approval last June.

The final coverage decision largely affirmed what CMS had proposed in its draft NCD: Medicare will cover Biogen Inc.’s Aduhelm (aducanumab) only for patients enrolled in randomized, controlled clinical trials conducted either through the FDA or the National Institutes of Health. Patients also must have a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease or mild dementia with a confirmed presence of plaque on the brain.

After Aduhelm, Congress May Revamp Accelerated Approvals

The FDA’s accelerated approval of Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm (aducanumab) last year was extremely controversial, prompting harsh criticism and calls for reform of the accelerated approval process itself. Congress has taken up the issue and is considering one bill from each major party that would revamp the process in the hope of addressing concerns that the pathway has allowed flawed drugs to stay on the market without being revisited.

Medical research and health care policy experts have raised a number of critiques of the current accelerated approval framework. Two critiques stand out: The first concerns the quality of data used in measuring the effectiveness of accelerated approval drugs. After a drug is granted accelerated approval, the FDA mandates that the drug be evaluated using confirmatory clinical trials. Experts have criticized the quality of data collected for accelerated approval drugs; in particular, the measurements used to gain approval for Aduhelm were heavily criticized by clinicians.