Specialty Drugs

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 Granted an Additional Indication to Lynparza

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: TG Therapeutics Withdraws Pending Applications for Ublituximab/Ukoniq Combo

TG Therapeutics, Inc. said April 15 that it voluntarily withdrew its pending Biologics License Application (BLA)/supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for the combination of ublituximab and Ukoniq (umbralisib) for the treatment of adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma. The company said it made the decision based on updated overall survival data from the UNITY-CLL Phase III trial. The company also said that it voluntarily withdrew Ukoniq from sale for two indications: (1) for adults with marginal zone lymphoma who have received at least one anti-CD20-based regimen, and (2) for adults with follicular lymphoma who have received at least three prior systemic therapies. The FDA gave the drug accelerated approval for those indications on Feb. 5, 2021. On Feb. 3, 2022, the company disclosed that the FDA was investigating a possible increased risk of death with Ukoniq based on initial findings from the UNITY clinical trial. The FDA had scheduled an April 22 meeting to discuss the sNDA for the combination therapy, as well as Ukoniq’s accelerated approvals. Following TG Therapeutics’ withdrawal of the BLA/sNDA and Ukoniq’s existing indications, the agency cancelled the meeting. The FDA is expected to make a decision on the BLA for ublituximab in relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis by Sept. 28, 2022.

A Look at Third-Party Oncology Clinical Pathways

In order to improve patient outcomes and reduce variations in oncology care, more and more payers and providers are adopting oncology clinical pathways (OCPs) — treatment protocols that aim to provide the optimal cancer care to patients at the lowest cost, according to a recent MMIT webinar. The share of oncologists exposed to third-party oncology pathways increased from 20% in 2015 to 52% in 2021, with one third of oncologists choosing a provider-focused pathway as of the fourth quarter of 2021. Breast cancer, multiple myeloma and non-small cell lung cancer are among the top therapeutic areas managed by third-party pathways.

Major PBMs Look Ahead to 2023 for Biosimilars Boom

With a raft of biosimilars coming to market starting in 2023, major PBMs are touting the pharmacy infrastructure and services that they say will position them to help customers take advantage of cost-saving opportunities in the coming years.

Speaking during recent conference calls to discuss first-quarter 2022 financial results, they also reported healthy client retention levels as PBMs move through the large-employer selling season.

“Our team is quite excited about and well positioned for the accelerating biosimilar trend that we see in front of us for the coming years,” Cigna CEO David Cordani said during a May 6 conference call to discuss first-quarter 2022 financial results, per a transcript from The Motley Fool.

Study: With High Prices, Rebate Revenue Is Growing for PBMs

New research published in JAMA Health Forum found that rebate revenue for PBMs grew between 2015 and 2019 — but that growing rebate revenue was not passed on to patients.

The research letter’s authors measured both prerebate and postrebate drug costs taken from medical loss ratio (MLR) filings made by plans to CMS. The research sample includes commercial insurance filings from small group, individual and large group health plans across “approximately 2,200 unique health plans” covering 70 million lives.

Most Payers Will Review Humira Biosimilars as They Come

Starting next year, biosimilars are expected to generate significant pharmacy cost savings for patients and payers, led by multiple biosimilars of AbbVie Inc.’s blockbuster immunosuppressive drug Humira (adalimumab). With as many as eight Humira competitors expected to launch in 2023, most payers report they will evaluate the biosimilars as they come to market over the course of the year, rather than waiting until all are available before making coverage decisions. And half of payers may adjust Humira contracting in 2022, prior to the biosimilars’ launches.

That’s according to findings from Zitter Insights, which like AIS Health is a division of MMIT. Steve Callahan, a senior manager of market research at MMIT, described Zitter’s market research findings on the Humira biosimilars during an April 5 webinar.

CMS Rule on Pharma Patient-Assistance Programs Could Cut Back on Aid

CMS’s stance has long been that manufacturer-provided assistance given to patients is excluded from best price and average manufacturer price (AMP) calculation for prescription drugs. However, the rise of copayment accumulators and maximizers — and health insurers’ subsequent taking of this assistance rather than allowing it to count toward patients’ deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums — have caused the agency to rethink its position. A rule slated to take effect at the beginning of 2023 would reverse that longtime approach, potentially resulting in increased patient out-of-pocket costs for drugs and pharma companies being on the hook for ensuring they know exactly where their assistance is going, industry experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT.

The Medicaid rebate rule allows state Medicaid programs to get the same discounts on drug prices that manufacturers offer commercial plans purchasing prescription drugs. Manufacturers pay rebates to Medicaid programs that are calculated based on drugmakers’ best price, which is the lowest price the manufacturer gives to most providers of health care services or items, including hospitals, HMOs and MCOs — but not patients. It includes any price adjustments, such as discounts and rebates, but not manufacturer-provided assistance to patients.