Trends That Matter

Trends That Matter for M&A Activity in Specialty Pharmacy and Infusion Therapy Spaces

February 14, 2019

The specialty pharmacy and infusion therapy spaces have certainly seen their share of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity over the years. Some challenges within those industries may have helped slow down 2018 activity a bit, observes Reg Blackburn, managing director at The Braff Group. And for 2019, we may see more of the same, AIS Health reported.

The specialty pharmacy and infusion therapy spaces have certainly seen their share of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity over the years. Some challenges within those industries may have helped slow down 2018 activity a bit, observes Reg Blackburn, managing director at The Braff Group. And for 2019, we may see more of the same, AIS Health reported.

As far as specialty pharmacy trends in 2018, Blackburn points out that “the largest specialty pharmacies continue to get even larger. Payer- and chain-owned dominate. Most new entity growth is coming from large academic hospitals starting their own specialty pharmacies.”

Direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees in Medicare Part D that include rebates and price concessions occurring after the point of sale have been around since the start of that program more than a decade ago.

But they started really becoming an issue for specialty drugs around 2016, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing any time soon.

Within the specialty pharmacy space, M&A activity “was lower than in past years,” he explains. Through third-quarter 2018, The Braff Group recorded eight specialty pharmacy deals, compared with 18 for full-year 2017, 20 for 2016 and 10 for 2015.

Moving forward into 2019, Blackburn expects to see “continued consolidation at a measured pace.” In addition, he says, “smaller independents will remain under pressure for gross margin and closed networks. They will want to exit, but buyers will be limited.”

Within the infusion therapy space over the past year, observes Blackburn, intravenous immune globulin and other specialty infusion products continue to drive revenue growth.

Trends That Matter for Hep C Treatment

January 31, 2019

A small study suggests it might be possible to shorten the length of expensive drug treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV), potentially cutting treatment time in half for 50% of patients. But managed care pharmacy clinicians say the results are far from ready to implement widely, and it’s possible the new approach might not even save money, AIS Health reported.

A small study suggests it might be possible to shorten the length of expensive drug treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV), potentially cutting treatment time in half for 50% of patients. But managed care pharmacy clinicians say the results are far from ready to implement widely, and it’s possible the new approach might not even save money, AIS Health reported.

The study, conducted at Loyola University Chicago and three medical centers in Israel, involved only 22 patients. It used a technique called modeling-based response-guided therapy, which estimated how long it would take to completely eliminate the hepatitis C virus.

“There’s a potential to save up to 20% of the costs of hepatitis C drugs,” says study author and Loyola researcher Harel Dahari, Ph.D.

However, April Kunze, Pharm.D., senior director of clinical formulary development and trend management strategy for Prime Therapeutics LLC, says that if PBMs or health plans apply policies that use the Loyola study’s data, the result may not necessarily be lower prices for hepatitis C therapy. “Drug pricing may vary significantly based on contracts and utilization,” she says. “Additionally, patients who relapse may require additional therapy, which could increase the overall cost of treatment.”

Regardless of the prospects for the response-guided therapy approach, there could be more price upheaval coming to the HCV antiviral market in 2019. Gilead said in September that it will soon launch steeply discounted generic versions of two of its HCV drugs.

 

Trends That Matter for FDA Orphan Label Application Reviews

January 17, 2019

The Orphan Drug Act (ODA) offers multiple incentives to manufacturers that bring a drug to market with an orphan designation. A recently released U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that while the number of applications both received and granted for this designation has grown, FDA reviewers were not consistently recording or evaluating required information that is mandated to consider granting this designation, AIS Health reported.

The Orphan Drug Act (ODA) offers multiple incentives to manufacturers that bring a drug to market with an orphan designation. A recently released U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that while the number of applications both received and granted for this designation has grown, FDA reviewers were not consistently recording or evaluating required information that is mandated to consider granting this designation, AIS Health reported.

The report, titled Orphan Drugs: FDA Could Improve Designation Review Consistency; Rare Disease Drug Development Challenges Continue (GAO-19-83), shows that from 2008 to 2017, both orphan designation applications received as well as orphan designations granted rose.

Researchers also assessed whether FDA reviewers were using consistent criteria to evaluate applications. On this, however, reviewers’ performance left a bit to be desired.

From October to December 2017, after the implementation of the modernization plan, the agency analyzed 148 review templates. According to the GAO report, “of the five review template sections where reviewers are required to record information, we found that OOPD [i.e., the Office of Orphan Products Development] does not ensure that all required information is consistently recorded in the background information section and evaluated when making designation decisions.”

Of the 148 templates, the FDA granted orphan designation to 26 applications that were missing required information. GAO recommends that the “FDA should ensure that all required information for reviews of orphan designation applications is consistently recorded and evaluated. The agency concurred with our recommendation.”

Trends That Matter for Migraine Drugs

January 3, 2019

Therapy for chronic migraine — a condition that’s been notoriously difficult to treat and which often leads to significant direct and indirect health care costs — has been upended with the recent approval of three injectable monoclonal antibody products in a new preventive medication class that’s significantly more effective than older preventive migraine drugs, a researcher says.

Therapy for chronic migraine — a condition that’s been notoriously difficult to treat and which often leads to significant direct and indirect health care costs — has been upended with the recent approval of three injectable monoclonal antibody products in a new preventive medication class that’s significantly more effective than older preventive migraine drugs, a researcher says.

These new calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors — Amgen, Inc. and Novartis AG’s Aimovig (erenumab), Teva Pharmaceuticals’ Ajovy (fremanezumab) and Eli Lilly and Co.’s Emgality (galcanezumab) — also may usher in an era of value-based contracting for migraine products, with plan sponsors willing to pay more to get better results, Machaon Bonafede, Ph.D., outcomes research practice leader at IBM Watson Health, told attendees Oct. 23 at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy Nexus annual meeting, AIS Health reported.

Express Scripts Holding Co. already has inked a value-based deal for two of the three drugs in the new migraine class. The PBM’s new SafeGuardRx Migraine Care Value program, which starts April 1, will cover Aimovig and Emgality. It will include a comprehensive clinical care program with access to CGRP inhibitors. In addition, Express Scripts is offering what’s in effect a money-back guarantee for plan sponsors when a patient discontinues therapy in the first 90 days.

These new medications have the potential to remake migraine treatment, the direct and indirect costs of which have been estimated at $36 billion annually in the U.S., Bonafede said. Indirect costs — such as lost productivity — can be difficult to capture and quantify, he added.

Trends That Matter for Crohn’s Disease Medications

December 20, 2018

New biosimilars for Janssen Biotech, Inc.’s Remicade (infliximab) have helped to moderate costs for Crohn’s disease as they’ve launched over the last two years, but plans still rely on utilization management strategies to keep the cost of treating the condition under control, experts tell AIS Health.

New biosimilars for Janssen Biotech, Inc.’s Remicade (infliximab) have helped to moderate costs for Crohn’s disease as they’ve launched over the last two years, but plans still rely on utilization management strategies to keep the cost of treating the condition under control, experts tell AIS Health.

Additional biosimilars — notably, three biosimilars for AbbVie Inc.’s Humira (adalimumab) — eventually will enter the marketplace as well, but the Humira biosimilars currently are mired in patent litigation and likely won’t launch until 2023, says April Kunze, Pharm.D., senior director, clinical formulary development and trend management strategy at Prime Therapeutics LLC.

Even though biosimilars don’t reduce the cost of care as much as generics, “more competition has led to decreases in costs,” Kunze says. Immunomodulator biosimilars Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb) and Renflexis (infliximab-abda) both have launched over the last two years in the U.S. — Pfizer Inc.’s Inflectra in late 2016 and Merck & Co. Inc.’s Renflexis in mid-2017.

Biologics represent the biggest slice of Crohn’s drug costs. Most of the non-biologic agents have generic equivalents available, while the biologics are dominated by brand name products, even though over the past year or so, infliximab biosimilars have introduced competition to Remicade, says Beckie Fenrick, Pharm.D., senior partner-consulting, RemedyOne.

Trends That Matter for HIV Treatments

December 6, 2018

At the annual Medicaid Health Plans of America conference, Express Scripts Holding Co. Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller, M.D., had a simple message for health plan leaders: “You have to think long term if you’re going to have better outcomes,” AIS Health reported.

At the annual Medicaid Health Plans of America conference, Express Scripts Holding Co. Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller, M.D., had a simple message for health plan leaders: “You have to think long term if you’re going to have better outcomes,” AIS Health reported.

One area in which Medicaid is not heeding that call, Miller said, is how it approaches treating and preventing HIV.

While the number of HIV patients is decreasing, the amount spent on treating HIV has risen in recent years — and the culprit is rising drug costs, Miller said. Thus, Medicaid programs and plans are often choosing to cover the least expensive medications, which tend to be multi-tablet regimens, rather than pricier single-tablet therapies, he said.

While that approach may cost less in the near term, patients treated this way are less likely to be adherent to their treatment plans than those who get a single-tablet therapy.

Commercial health plans, which have less of an issue with finances than Medicaid, almost always choose single-tablet regimens for patients, according to Miller. Medicaid beneficiaries with HIV, on the other hand, are getting single-tablet regimens less than 60% of the time.

“So the reality is we’re sub-optimizing that care, and therefore we’re actually going to cost ourselves a lot more in the long run,” he added.