Trends That Matter

Trends That Matter for New Cystic Fibrosis Medication

December 5, 2019

The FDA recently approved a drug therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF) that is being viewed as a “game-changer” for the roughly nine in 10 patients with the rare, progressive disease who might benefit from it. Where does this leave payers facing rising specialty drug costs across the board? Industry experts predict that most payers likely will cover this latest cystic fibrosis treatment option despite an annual price tag topping $300,000, AIS Health reported.

The FDA recently approved a drug therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF) that is being viewed as a “game-changer” for the roughly nine in 10 patients with the rare, progressive disease who might benefit from it. Where does this leave payers facing rising specialty drug costs across the board? Industry experts predict that most payers likely will cover this latest cystic fibrosis treatment option despite an annual price tag topping $300,000, AIS Health reported.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s Trikafta (elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor), taken as a twice-daily pill regimen, is the first triple combination therapy available to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. The drug directly addresses the underlying cause of the illness — mutations in the CFTR protein.

The FDA approved Trikafta for patients 12 years and older with at least one F508del mutation in the CFTR gene, which is estimated to represent 90% of the cystic fibrosis population — many of whom have had no approved therapeutic options previously.

“From a utilization management standpoint, there is nothing in the marketplace that will be more effective or significantly less costly” than Trikafta, says Yusuf Rashid, R.Ph., vice president of pharmacy and vendor relationship management at Community Health Plan of Washington.

Manu Jain, M.D., professor of medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and director of Northwestern’s adult CF program, expects the payer community generally will approve Trikafta. But coverage “definitely will be uneven,” he says.

The graphics below show the current market access to CF medications for all payers under the pharmacy benefit.

Trends That Matter for 2020 Star Quality Ratings

November 21, 2019

According to CMS’s recent release of the 2020 star quality ratings, many Medicare Advantage beneficiaries continue to enroll in plans with 4 or more stars. There was also a notable shift of membership into highly rated Prescription Drug Plans, some of which made meaningful improvements on an individual basis even though PDP performance on average was stagnant, AIS Health reported.

According to CMS’s recent release of the 2020 star quality ratings, many Medicare Advantage beneficiaries continue to enroll in plans with 4 or more stars. There was also a notable shift of membership into highly rated Prescription Drug Plans, some of which made meaningful improvements on an individual basis even though PDP performance on average was stagnant, AIS Health reported.

More than half of Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans (210 contracts) that will be offered in 2020 earned overall star ratings of 4 or higher, compared with 46% of MA-PDs (172 contracts) offered in 2019, CMS reported on Oct. 11. Weighted by enrollment, approximately 81% of MA-PD enrollees are currently in contracts that will have 4 or more stars in 2020, up from about 75% in 2019.

Given that there were no substantial changes to the star measures in terms of weights or calculations this year, MA-PDs’ performance on average is “good evidence that the industry did a great job teaching to the test,” observes Melissa Smith, senior vice president of strategy and stars with Gorman Health Group.

Meanwhile, the percentage of enrollees in a PDP rated 4 or higher increased from a meager 3.5% in 2019 to approximately 28% for 2020 based on current enrollment, and the average star rating for PDPs rose from 3.34 in 2019 to 3.5 in 2020.

Trends That Matter for IL-17 Use in Psoriasis

November 7, 2019

For many years, the psoriasis treatment landscape was dominated by tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. But with the FDA’s approval of three interleukin-17 (IL-17) inhibitors — as well as other drugs with different mechanisms of action — for the condition, those therapies are becoming more common among treatment regimens, AIS Health reported.

For many years, the psoriasis treatment landscape was dominated by tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. But with the FDA’s approval of three interleukin-17 (IL-17) inhibitors — as well as other drugs with different mechanisms of action — for the condition, those therapies are becoming more common among treatment regimens, AIS Health reported.

The first IL-17 inhibitor on the U.S. market was Cosentyx (secukinumab) from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., which launched in 2015. The next therapy was Taltz (ixekizumab) from Eli Lilly and Co., and then on Feb. 15, 2017, the agency approved Siliq (brodalumab) from Ortho Dermatologics.

An AllianceRx Walgreens Prime study sampled 5,215 members who started on an IL-17 from January 2016 through December 2017. The study showed that 2,218, or 42.5%, switched from a prior biologic, while 2,997, or 57.5%, started on an IL-17 as their first psoriasis biologic. Among those who started their biologic regimens on an IL-17 inhibitor, 2,266 started on Cosentyx, followed by 725 who initiated on Taltz and six who started on Siliq.

According to Renee Baiano, Pharm.D., clinical program manager at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime and the lead author of the poster, the main takeaway for payers is that “by [the] last quarter of 2017, IL-17 inhibitors may have gained clinical acceptance in the treatment of psoriasis, given the increase in patients prescribed as their first biologic.” She adds that “it is important for payers to be aware they may see more of their members being prescribed IL-17 inhibitors and will need to determine the appropriate placement of these newer agents within their formulary.”

The graphics below show the current market access to IL-17 inhibitors for all payers under the pharmacy benefit.

 

Trends That Matter for Parkinson’s Disease Medications

October 24, 2019

Although three new drugs for Parkinson’s disease have been approved over the last year, plans generally are sticking with the drugs they’ve included on formularies for several years, most of which are generic, experts tell AIS Health.

Although three new drugs for Parkinson’s disease have been approved over the last year, plans generally are sticking with the drugs they’ve included on formularies for several years, most of which are generic, experts tell AIS Health.

That may change in the long term as new gene therapies that currently are in development are approved and come online. But none of those potential new treatments are close to market right now, says Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx.

“Many commonly used therapies for Parkinson’s disease — carbidopa-levodopa, MAO-Bs, dopamine agonists — have available generics, which on most plans would be considered formulary options, or one generic product within each class would be selected as formulary,” Tegenu tells AIS Health.

The FDA in August approved Kyowa Kirin, Inc.’s Nourianz (istradefylline) tablets as an add-on treatment to levodopa/carbidopa in adult patients with Parkinson’s disease experiencing motor fluctuations. In February, the FDA approved Osmotica Pharmaceutical US LLC’s Osmolex ER (amantadine) for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. And in late December, the FDA approved Accorda Therapeutics’ Inbrija (levodopa inhalation powder) for intermittent treatment of off episodes in people with Parkinson’s disease taking carbidopa/levodopa.

Still, plans are stocking their formularies with less expensive generic medications. The graphics below show the current market access to Parkinson’s disease drugs for all payers under the pharmacy benefit and their utilization management restrictions.

Trends That Matter for AML Therapy Class

October 10, 2019

The FDA has approved nearly 10 therapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) over the past couple of years. Because most of them target a specific biomarker, it’s critical that people diagnosed with the condition undergo genetic testing to determine whether they fall into a particular patient subgroup, AIS Health reported.

The FDA has approved nearly 10 therapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) over the past couple of years. Because most of them target a specific biomarker, it’s critical that people diagnosed with the condition undergo genetic testing to determine whether they fall into a particular patient subgroup, AIS Health reported.

“Prior to two years ago, we had no new drugs for over a decade, and now we have eight new drugs approved in just the last two years, so the whole field has changed,” said Daniel J. DeAngelo, M.D., Ph.D., chief, division of leukemia, institute physician, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, in an interview published on the website obroncology.com.

Many of the newer drugs are oral formulations, which, “in general, are easier to administer,” points out Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx, LLC. “Rather than having to go into a hospital or clinic for treatment, a patient can simply take a medication orally for their condition.”

Payers utilize a variety of management tactics with AML therapies. “Payers often require prior authorization of these therapies due to safety, concern for off-label usage and cost,” says Tegenu. A variety of drugs are used off-label for certain patient populations, he notes.

The graphic below show the current market access to AML drugs across commercial, Health Exchange, Medicare and Medicaid formularies for all payers under the pharmacy benefit:

Trends That Matter for High-Touch Care Management for Chronic Conditions

September 26, 2019

Though PBMs are most known for the influence they have on prescription drug costs, some firms are increasingly focused on offering high-touch condition management services that give them a more active role in patient care, AIS Health reported.

Though PBMs are most known for the influence they have on prescription drug costs, some firms are increasingly focused on offering high-touch condition management services that give them a more active role in patient care, AIS Health reported.

For specialty PBM AscellaHealth, LLC, that means harnessing a variety of resources to help better manage treatment for hemophilia, a notoriously expensive disease state.

Not only does the PBM leverage its specialty pharmacy network to obtain the best prices for hemophilia clotting factor, but it also uses technology to monitor medication dispensing in real time and provides clinical interventions when necessary, explains Mike Baldzicki, AscellaHealth’s executive vice president of growth and strategy.

Meanwhile, CVS Health Corp. is expanding its Transform Diabetes Care program, which helps members of its PBM, Caremark, control their diabetes by providing technology-enabled, personalized support and coaching focused on improving medication adherence and controlling blood-sugar levels. As part of the expansion, the program will also focus on the prevention and early identification of diabetes as well as hypertension, which is twice as common in diabetes patients as the regular population.