Infusion Therapy

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.

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ICER Examines Cost Effectiveness, Clinical Effectiveness of Multiple Sclerosis Drugs

Three FDA-approved multiple sclerosis treatments and one MS drug that the FDA is currently reviewing are not cost effective, according to an analysis from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). Jon Campbell, Ph.D., ICER’s senior vice president for health economics and one of the report’s authors, also tells AIS Health that there was “insufficient evidence” to differentiate the clinical effectiveness of any of those four drugs, which are known as monoclonal antibodies.

The findings were part of a larger ICER draft evidence report published on Oct. 17 that examined the clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness of oral and monoclonal antibody disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for relapsing-remitting MS. About 85% of the 1 million Americans with MS have the relapsing-remitting form.

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FDA Approves Gene Therapy, Manufacturer Prices Drug at Record $2.8 Million

After the FDA approved Zynteglo (betibeglogene autotemcel) on Aug. 17, the gene therapy’s manufacturer, bluebird bio, Inc., announced the drug would have a $2.8 million wholesale acquisition cost (WAC). That is the highest WAC for a drug hitting the market in the U.S.

Zynteglo is indicated as a potential cure for patients with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia, a rare disorder caused by genetic mutations in cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Such patients typically require red blood cell transfusions every two to five weeks.

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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.

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Horizon and CINJ Are Piloting Home Infusion Oncology Program

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, to say the health care system was disrupted is an understatement. Many people undergoing treatment for cancer rightfully were concerned about their potential exposure to the virus and were hesitant to leave their homes for care. In order to continue treating some patients, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey partnered with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and RWJBarnabas Health to start a pilot to offer home infusion of cancer treatments and telemedicine support for eligible people, the first such program in the state.

In addition to not putting people at risk of acquiring an illness, home infusion means that people don’t have to travel for treatment. It also provides them with one-on-one care, close monitoring during infusions and the ability to schedule treatments around their personal schedule. These benefits are especially important for people with compromised immune systems.

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Many Melanoma Therapies Exist, but Treatment Remains Challenging

Since 2011, the FDA has approved multiple therapies for advanced or late-stage melanoma. Recently, the agency granted an additional approval to one of those drugs for the earlier stage melanoma setting, filling an unmet need, industry experts note. However, the condition is complex to treat and may be challenging for health plans to manage.

On Dec. 3, the FDA approved Merck & Co., Inc.’s programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for the adjuvant treatment of people at least 12 years old with stage IIB or IIC melanoma following complete resection. The agency also expanded the indication for the agent’s use as an adjuvant treatment of stage III melanoma following complete resection to include pediatric patients at least 12 years old.

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Specialty Pharmacy, Home Infusion Spaces Saw Myriad 2021 Changes

While the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact the specialty pharmacy and home infusion spaces for the second straight year, other events also played a role. AIS Health spoke to some industry experts about 2021’s impact.

AIS Health: Looking back over the past year, what do you think were the most noteworthy occurrences within the specialty pharmacy industry, and why?

Dea Belazi, Pharm.D., M.P.H., president and CEO of AscellaHealth: Some of the noteworthy trends in SP have included the continued rise of the cost of specialty agents within health care expenditures, the continued emergence of ultra-high-cost specialty agents for rare and orphan diseases and the continued vertical integration of specialty pharmacies into health care organizations.

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