Data & Analytics

Trends That Matter for Medicare Part D Costs

August 15, 2019

A recently published study in Health Affairs shines a light on a peculiar quirk of the Medicare Part D benefit structure: For some high-priced specialty medications, seniors might pay less out-of-pocket for brand-name drugs than their generic counterparts.

A recently published study in Health Affairs shines a light on a peculiar quirk of the Medicare Part D benefit structure: For some high-priced specialty medications, seniors might pay less out-of-pocket for brand-name drugs than their generic counterparts.

The study found that, assuming a 61% discount between brand-name and generic drugs, Part D beneficiaries with prescriptions costing between $22,000 and $80,000 per year would have lower out-of-pocket spending if they use brand-name drugs over a generic, AIS Health reported.

The graphics below show the annual out-of-pocket savings associated with generic drugs and the median-point-of-sale price differences of brand-name drugs and their generic counterparts.

Trends That Matter for CMS’s Oncology Care Model

August 1, 2019

CMS’s Oncology Care Model (OCM) is about halfway through its five-year pilot. Developed by the CMS Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, the voluntary pilot is aimed at providing better quality and more coordinated cancer care for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, as well as other payers, while at a lower cost.

CMS’s Oncology Care Model (OCM) is about halfway through its five-year pilot. Developed by the CMS Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, the voluntary pilot is aimed at providing better quality and more coordinated cancer care for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, as well as other payers, while at a lower cost.

One criticism of the model is that providers’ costs are compared with targeted costs that are based partly on their spending from 2012 to 2015, the OCM baseline period. When the actual costs come in below the targeted costs, that earns providers a performance-based payment. But with so many costly oncology therapies launching after the baseline period, this is making it hard for providers to gain a performance-based payment, AIS Health reported.

That was the focus of a poster presentation by Tennessee Oncology at last month’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. Researchers maintained that “when avoidable inpatient, post-acute, and emergency department (ED) costs are minimized, a practice’s actual costs should be lower than target costs, allowing practices the opportunity for shared and performance-based savings. However, we hypothesized that the ability for an oncology practice to successfully meet target costs may be hampered by the skyrocketing prices of novel therapy drugs implemented into clinical practice after baseline period cost calculations.”

They examined Tennessee Oncology patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and bladder cancer treated during the second performance period (January through June 2017). Among researchers’ findings:

The researchers concluded that the use of expensive novel therapies in concordance with NCCN guidelines in indications approved after the OCM baseline period “poses significant challenges to practices. Future value-based care initiatives in oncology need more accurate ways to account for rising drug costs and expanding treatment indications to prevent penalties for following guideline appropriate care.”

Radar On Market Access: Will Blockchain Transform Relationships Industry Wide?

July 30, 2019

Industry consultants from Milliman Inc. assert in a July 11 report that blockchain — which is described as a real-time digital ledger for building secure networks — “could potentially transform the relationship between payers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies by offering an alternative, transparent mechanism for processing, pricing, and validating prescription transactions.”

Industry consultants from Milliman Inc. assert in a July 11 report that blockchain — which is described as a real-time digital ledger for building secure networks — “could potentially transform the relationship between payers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies by offering an alternative, transparent mechanism for processing, pricing, and validating prescription transactions.”

Using blockchain technology, payers and pharmacies would reduce the time they spend validating insurance coverage, making phone calls and managing data, Milliman explains. The firm is urging PBMs to work to “evaluate a blockchain alternative now with an eye toward a more efficient drug financing system” capable of handling additional technology improvements, AIS Health reported.

“We’re just trying to get people thinking outside the box, and I believe blockchain has applications with supply chain management, claim-processing and transparency to the consumer,” says Brian Anderson, a principal for Milliman and co-author of the blockchain paper.

In the Milliman report, Anderson and his colleagues, Gregory Callahan and Michael DiPrima, note the current electronic approach to processing pharmacy claims is a sometimes opaque, centralized database management system managed by the PBM.

By contrast, blockchain’s database management system model would be decentralized. Milliman explains that means a distributed network of “nodes” would validate all transactions and would store data throughout the distributed network rather than in a centralized server.

The Milliman consultants conclude blockchain technology “appears to hold great promise for the PBM marketplace.” But they concede there are obstacles to overcome, explaining that while blockchain has shown great potential for security in cryptocurrency, its true potential in health care has not yet been evaluated.

Trends That Matter for Oncology Biosimilars Management

July 18, 2019

Magellan Rx Management, the PBM division of Magellan Health, Inc., on June 4 announced its launch of an oncology biosimilars program, preparing its health plan customers for the expected market entry of biosimilars for three cancer-fighting drugs — Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin — later this year, AIS Health reported.

Magellan Rx Management, the PBM division of Magellan Health, Inc., on June 4 announced its launch of an oncology biosimilars program, preparing its health plan customers for the expected market entry of biosimilars for three cancer-fighting drugs — Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin — later this year, AIS Health reported.

“Oncology is by far the largest therapeutic area for drug spend on the medical benefit, and it is even higher in Medicare,” Steve Cutts, senior vice president and general manager for Magellan Rx’s specialty drug unit, tells AIS Health. Thus, he says, the PBM will be focusing the oncology biosimilars program “on all lines of business for our clients.”

The three oncology brand drugs together account for $9 billion in U.S. drug sales, and almost $50 million in annual drug spend per 1 million covered commercial lives, Magellan Rx says. The PBM anticipates savings of $5 million to $8 million per 1 million covered lives via its new program but sees “potential for even greater savings based on [its] past successes with biosimilars.”

Cutts notes that Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin “all have FDA approved biosimilars which are due to be launched and available on the market in 2019, with some speculated to be available as soon as this month.”

Radar On Market Access: In Medicare Part D, Generic Drugs May Not Always Be Cheaper

July 16, 2019

A recently published study in Health Affairs shines a light on a peculiar quirk of the Medicare Part D benefit structure: For some high-priced specialty medications, seniors might pay less out-of-pocket for brand-name drugs than their generic counterparts.

A recently published study in Health Affairs shines a light on a peculiar quirk of the Medicare Part D benefit structure: For some high-priced specialty medications, seniors might pay less out-of-pocket for brand-name drugs than their generic counterparts.

The study found that, assuming a 61% discount between brand-name and generic drugs, Part D beneficiaries with prescriptions costing between $22,000 and $80,000 per year would have lower out-of-pocket spending if they use brand-name drugs over a generic, AIS Health reported.

“That’s really frustrating for consumers because you may actually not be in a plan that allows you to switch to a branded drug” if it’s cheaper than the generic, says Stacie Dusetzina, one of the study authors and an associate professor at Vanderbilt University.

“The other practical thing is, that would a terrible thing for us to be trying to get people to do because generally we want to encourage people to use generic drugs because they’re the best deal for us as a society,” she says.

Sharon Jhawar, chief pharmacy officer at California-based SCAN Health Plan, points out that because most generic prescriptions filled by seniors are not pricey specialty ones, “this kind of nuance that’s happening [with the Part D benefit] is kind of narrow and limited in scope.”

“But we know that the specialty pipeline is robust,” and so taking a look at the problem and figuring out solutions “does make sense,” she says.

However, well-intentioned policy changes don’t always turn out as planned, notes Kelly Brantley, a managing director at Avalere.

“Part D is so complicated, it’s hard to know what sort of fixes drive other quote-unquote problems,” she says.

Trends That Matter for Oncology

July 3, 2019

The oncology space continued its trend of developing innovative therapies — both those launching and in the pipeline — in 2018. That’s according to a new report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science titled Global Oncology Trends 2019: Therapeutics, Clinical Development and Health System Implications. And while the outlook continues to look promising in terms of the science, it may pose issues to the health care system that need to be resolved in order to take full advantage of next-generation oncology products, AIS Health reported.

The oncology space continued its trend of developing innovative therapies — both those launching and in the pipeline — in 2018. That’s according to a new report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science titled Global Oncology Trends 2019: Therapeutics, Clinical Development and Health System Implications. And while the outlook continues to look promising in terms of the science, it may pose issues to the health care system that need to be resolved in order to take full advantage of next-generation oncology products, AIS Health reported.

The 15 new oncology drugs and one supportive care drug launched last year for 17 tumor types marked a record. “Importantly, one of the new drugs is tissue-agnostic” — Loxo Oncology, Inc. and Bayer Corp.’s Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) — noted Murray Aitken, executive director of the institute, during a May 23 media call to discuss the report’s findings. “Over half of the new drugs are oral therapies, continuing this trend toward more of the targeted, innovative therapies being available in an oral form. Two-thirds of the new drugs have an orphan indication, continuing this trend towards cancer being redefined into narrower segments.”

Among the new drugs, more than half have a predictive biomarker on their label.

“This is a trend, the movement towards precision medicine and the growing role that predictive biomarkers are having, both in the way in which the drugs are tested in the clinic, as well as used in practice, where patients can be tested for a biomarker in advance of being treated with a particular drug,” maintained Aitken.