Medicare Part B

In Executive Order, Biden Directs CMMI to Tackle Drug Costs

In an executive order released Oct. 14, the Biden administration directed the CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to “to consider additional actions to further drive down prescription drug costs,” building on the Medicare drug price negotiation stipulations of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). D.C. insiders tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that CMMI could pull old policy proposals off the shelf when it works to “test new ways of paying for Medicare services that improve the quality of care while lowering costs,” as the administration puts it.

The executive order isn’t specific about what policies the White House would prefer CMMI look into. However, the administration will know the possibilities fairly soon: CMMI will have 90 days to develop recommendations. Per a White House fact sheet, the final product will be “a formal report outlining any plans to use the Innovation Center’s authorities to lower drug costs and promote access to innovative drug therapies for Medicare beneficiaries.”

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News Briefs: CMS to Hire “Small Army” of Drug Pricing Staff

After Michelle McMurray-Heath, M.D., resigned from her position as president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the major industry trade group said on Oct. 11 that Rachel King, co-founder and former CEO of GlycoMimetics, Inc., agreed to serve in those roles on an interim basis while BIO searches for a permanent successor. Before her departure, McMurray-Heath was on leave following disagreements with some board members over whether BIO should engage on social issues not directly connected to health care policy, which the molecular immunologist opposed, The Wall Street Journal reported. Her exit also comes in the wake of Congress’ passage of major drug pricing reforms as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, representing a rare defeat for the powerful pharma lobby.

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Drug Price Negotiation Will Require New CMS Regulations, Staffing

Now that Medicare can negotiate the price of prescription drugs it purchases, the Biden administration needs to figure out how it will hash out deals with drugmakers. Experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that implementation of the long-sought negotiation program will come with plenty of challenges and pitfalls.

The administration will have to issue new regulations, hire hundreds of staff, determine which drug prices will be negotiated first and design the criteria that will select drugs for negotiation in the future.

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Drug Price Negotiation Will Require New CMS Regulations, Staffing

Now that Medicare can negotiate the price of prescription drugs it purchases, the Biden administration needs to figure out how it will hash out deals with drugmakers. Experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that implementation of the long-sought negotiation program will come with plenty of challenges and pitfalls.

The administration will have to issue new regulations, hire hundreds of staff, determine which drug prices will be negotiated first and design the criteria that will select drugs for negotiation in the future.

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Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Is Poised to Become Reality

It appears that for the first time, HHS will be able to negotiate prices of some prescription drugs in Medicare. The pharma industry has long resisted such efforts, and it remains to be seen what the impact of the legislation, if passed, will be on manufacturers’ drug discounts and rebates.
On Aug. 7, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday. If it passes as anticipated, President Joe Biden is projected to sign it into law shortly thereafter.

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Democrats Make Another Attempt at Prescription Drug Pricing Reform

Democrats are once again seeking to pass drug pricing reform with a new proposal published earlier this month. While the bill is similar to previous ones, most notably with having Medicare conduct drug price negotiations, it also offers some changes from past efforts, including not basing those drug prices on an international reference model. Still, many pharma stakeholders expressed disappointment over aspects of the bill, and while its odds of passing have slightly improved more recently, industry experts are somewhat divided on the bill’s chance of approval.

The newest proposal was released on July 6 after negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who squelched earlier administration attempts at drug pricing reform.

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As Audit Season Picks Up, CMS Is Scrutinizing Rx Access Issues

As Medicare Advantage plans and their providers operate under a new normal two-and-a-half years into the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), CMS is resuming its regular pace of auditing MA organizations as another program audit cycle gets underway, according to compliance experts. During a June 21 session of AHIP 2022, held in Las Vegas, panelists observed that CMS continues to be focused on ensuring seniors’ smooth access to prescription drugs and emphasized the importance of audit readiness.

CMS’s audit activity was limited during the previous cycle, especially in 2020, and its latest audit report reflected that. Released in June, the 2021 Part C and Part D Program Audit and Enforcement Report said CMS imposed 16 civil monetary penalties amounting to roughly $1 million and, between 2019 and 2021, it audited about 20% of currently active sponsors representing approximately 89% of Parts C and D enrollment — which is lower than CMS’s typical goal of 95%.

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News Briefs: Medicare Will Cover Monoclonal Antibodies Targeting Amyloid for Alzheimer’s Disease

Medicare will cover monoclonal antibodies targeting amyloid for Alzheimer’s disease treatment that receive traditional FDA approval under coverage with evidence development (CED), according to an April 7 final National Coverage Determination (NCD). In addition, for drugs that have not shown a clinical benefit or that receive accelerated approval, Medicare will cover them in FDA- or National Institutes of Health-approved trials. CMS will cover the medication and any related services for Medicare beneficiaries participating in these trials. The move follows a proposed NCD released Jan.11, which received more than 10,000 stakeholder comments.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey filed a lawsuit (No. 1:22-cv-10493) against Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. regarding Eylea (aflibercept), a medication approved for certain retinal diseases, including wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration. The suit alleges that Regeneron transferred funds to the Chronic Disease Fund, which offset patient out-of-pocket costs for Eylea but not its competitors. The lawsuit argues that this is an illegal kickback under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

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FDA Approves Novartis Drug That Will Go Up Against PCSK9s

More than a year after pandemic travel restrictions pushed back the FDA’s approval decision on Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s inclisiran, the agency finally approved it. The new first-in-class therapy targets so-called bad cholesterol and is set to compete with two other biologics that target the same protein.

On Dec. 22, the FDA approved Leqvio as an adjunct to diet and maximally tolerated statin therapy for the treatment of adults with clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) or heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) who require additional lowering of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c).

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CMS Proposed NCD Will Provide Limited Medicare Coverage of Aduhelm, Other Similar Therapies

To say that the FDA’s approval of Biogen and Eisai, Co., Ltd.’s Alzheimer’s disease treatment Aduhelm (aducanumab-avwa) on June 7, 2021, garnered an immense amount of attention would seem to be an understatement. That said, the drug has somehow gathered even more notice over the past few months due to multiple developments, with CMS most recently issuing a proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) on Aduhelm and other monoclonal antibodies that target beta amyloid plaque that will allow Medicare coverage for the therapies but only under certain circumstances. While commercial payers often follow CMS’s lead, it remains to be seen whether that decision — plus a dramatic price cut on Aduhelm — will prompt payers that have declined to cover the therapy to change course.

There is a 30-day public comment period on the proposed NCD, which was published Jan. 11. A final decision is expected on April 11.

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