Product Release

Radar On Market Access: New Solutions to Finance High-Cost Treatments May Raise New Questions

September 17, 2019

With concerns mounting about how health plan sponsors will pay for breakthrough treatments with ultra-high price tags, some major insurers are offering up new solutions aimed at easing that burden, AIS Health reported.

With concerns mounting about how health plan sponsors will pay for breakthrough treatments with ultra-high price tags, some major insurers are offering up new solutions aimed at easing that burden, AIS Health reported.

Cigna Corp. “appears at the forefront” of initiatives to cope with super-high-cost drugs, as Citi analyst Ralph Giacobbe puts it, given that the firm recently introduced a new solution that would help clients pay for and manage two gene therapies: Luxturna and Zolgensma.

Members whose plan sponsors pay a per-member per-month fee for Cigna’s new solution — called Embarc Benefit Protection — will pay nothing out of pocket for Zolgensma or Luxturna if they meet the clinical qualifications to be treated with one of those therapies.

“Employers are looking for solutions like that from their health plan partners and the PBMs,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health. However, while offerings like Cigna’s could help employers “smooth out the spikes in expenses,” businesses remain concerned about the overall costs of breakthrough therapies in the pipeline, he notes.

Besides Cigna, other major names in the insurance sector, such as CVS Health Corp.’s Aetna and Anthem, Inc., are working on their own solutions to help cope with high-cost therapies, including annuity-style payment arrangements and value-based contracts.

David Dross, managed pharmacy practice leader at the consulting firm Mercer, says some large, self-insured employers that are concerned about ultra-costly treatments are rethinking their decision to forgo stop-loss coverage.

However, issues can arise if clinical and financial management of a high-cost drug are done separately, he adds. In other words, a plan sponsor may determine that a member qualifies for a high-cost drug, but the stop-loss carrier that’s taking on the financial responsibility may not agree.

Trends That Matter for RM/AT Products

September 12, 2019

This past quarter saw two new gene therapies: Novartis AG subsidiary AveXis, Inc.’s Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi) received FDA approval May 24 for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, and bluebird bio’s Zynteglo (autologous CD34+ cells encoding βA-T87Q- globin gene) received conditional marketing authorization from the European Commission for transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia.

This past quarter saw two new gene therapies: Novartis AG subsidiary AveXis, Inc.’s Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi) received FDA approval May 24 for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, and bluebird bio’s Zynteglo (autologous CD34+ cells encoding βA-T87Q- globin gene) received conditional marketing authorization from the European Commission for transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia.

While only a handful of therapies in the broader regenerative medicine/advanced therapy (RM/AT) space are available globally, a new report shows that is likely to change, as there are more than 1,000 products in the pipeline, AIS Health reported.

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine published the report, titled Quarterly Global Regenerative Medicine Sector Report: Q2 2019, on Aug. 1. It shows there are 1,069 clinical trials using specific RM/AT technologies, which include gene therapy, gene-modified cell therapy, cell therapy and tissue engineering. Ninety-four of those products are in Phase III trials.

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.”

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.”

Perspectives on the First NASH Drugs

July 11, 2019

Doctors trying to treat patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — a serious type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that, if left untreated, may progress to cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, cancer and possibly the need for a liver transplant — soon may have new options in their arsenal beyond promoting exercise and diet. The first-ever NASH drugs are expected to hit the U.S. market as early as 2020 to help address this increasingly prevalent, complex disease spawned largely by the obesity epidemic and surge of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., AIS Health reported.

Doctors trying to treat patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — a serious type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that, if left untreated, may progress to cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, cancer and possibly the need for a liver transplant — soon may have new options in their arsenal beyond promoting exercise and diet. The first-ever NASH drugs are expected to hit the U.S. market as early as 2020 to help address this increasingly prevalent, complex disease spawned largely by the obesity epidemic and surge of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., AIS Health reported.

Douglas Dieterich, M.D., director of the Institute for Liver Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System, says the entry of first-ever NASH medications will “definitely” offer significant benefit to patients. “There’s no question [the drugs will help] — in combination with diet and exercise,” he says. “It will have to be the whole package.”

Multiple drugs are in phase 3 clinical trials for NASH. A front-runner is Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s drug, Ocaliva (obeticholic acid), already on the market to treat another liver condition. But the FDA isn’t expected to approve Intercept’s drug for NASH until the second quarter of 2020, Dieterich notes.

Dieterich says he expects NASH medications will “undoubtedly” be marketed as specialty drugs that will be “strictly controlled” by PBMs and insurance companies. He expects such drugs to become available only to the sickest patients, possibly only after a diagnostic liver biopsy is performed.

From a plan perspective, Yusuf Rashid, R.Ph., vice president of pharmacy and vendor relationship management at Community Health Plan of Washington, says NASH “has similarities to other recent new breakthrough therapies where the outcome we are trying to avoid is costly and potentially fatal but not all patients…will even progress to fibrosis. The reason why NASH is more significant is the sheer number of patients that may qualify for treatment.”