Trends That Matter

Trends That Matter for Infliximab Biosimilars

May 23, 2019

Magellan Rx Management saw a significant shift in utilization from Janssen Biotech, Inc.’s Remicade (infliximab) to biosimilars after it implemented a comprehensive utilization management (UM) program, resulting in 34% drug cost savings, the PBM reported.

Magellan Rx Management saw a significant shift in utilization from Janssen Biotech, Inc.’s Remicade (infliximab) to biosimilars after it implemented a comprehensive utilization management (UM) program, resulting in 34% drug cost savings, the PBM reported.

The program, which began in late 2017, involves any patient prescribed an infliximab product for any indication, and is available to all payer clients as an opt-in option, Steve Cutts, senior vice president and general manager, tells AIS Health.

When Magellan Rx began the infliximab program in the fourth quarter of 2017, 100% of the PBM’s patients receiving an infliximab product received Remicade and none took biosimilars, the PBM said. In the third quarter of 2018, the last quarter for which Magellan has data, 86% of patients got the biosimilar and 14% took the brand-name drug.

The FDA approved the first infliximab biosimilar, Pfizer, Inc.’s Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb), in April 2016. The agency now lists three approved infliximab biosimilars: Inflectra; Merck & Co., Inc.’s Renflexis (infliximab-abda); and Pfizer’s Ixifi (infliximab-qbtx). Pfizer is not launching Ixifi in the U.S. since it already has Inflectra on the market, so only Inflectra and Renflexis are being sold in the U.S.

Below is the current market access to Remicade, Inflectra and Renflexis under the pharmacy benefit:

Trends That Matter for Colorectal Cancer Medications

May 9, 2019

As innovations in digital capabilities continue to be used with various health care products, Proteus Digital Health, Inc. is developing a suite of what it terms digital medicines. And while the company has been working on such products for a few years, it recently came out with the first such product within the oncology space, AIS Health reported.

As innovations in digital capabilities continue to be used with various health care products, Proteus Digital Health, Inc. is developing a suite of what it terms digital medicines. And while the company has been working on such products for a few years, it recently came out with the first such product within the oncology space, AIS Health reported.

Proteus is partnering with Fairview Health Services and the University of Minnesota Health to offer oral capecitabine combined with an ingestible sensor to treat stage 3 and stage 4 colorectal cancer patients.

David Purdie, vice president of medical affairs at Proteus, explains that through an open capsulation process, a pharmacist will place a capecitabine pill and a sensor within a capsule and then seal it. The capsule dissolves within a person’s stomach within a minute or so after it’s ingested. “Each sensor has a unique identifier,” and after the capsule dissolves, an app on a mobile device transmits data such as the time of the dose, the medication taken, the dosage of the drug and certain patient reactions to the drug to the cloud, where the information matches up with a database. “Every pill is uniquely identified,” so if someone takes 30 different pills at one time, the database will be able to know exactly what each medication is.

Below is the current market access to colorectal cancer medications under the pharmacy benefit:

Trends That Matter for Insulin

April 25, 2019

Amid increasing public scrutiny of rising insulin prices, some health insurers are taking matters into their own hands to help their diabetic members afford the lifesaving medications, AIS Health reported.

Amid increasing public scrutiny of rising insulin prices, some health insurers are taking matters into their own hands to help their diabetic members afford the lifesaving medications, AIS Health reported.

Leading PBMs, such as CVS Health Corp., Express Scripts and Prime Therapeutics, also applied formulary strategies to keep insulin affordable. CVS Health reported a -1.7% trend for antidiabetic drugs in 2018, despite increasing utilization and 5.6% average wholesale price inflation for brand drugs, according to its 2018 drug trend report.

By removing Lantus and Toujeo from the formulary and making Basaglar preferred, CVS reported its clients saw a 21.7% reduction in cost per long-acting insulin prescription, which translated to a lower overall cost of $0.34 per member per month.

At the integrated health system HealthPartners, the members who are hardest hit by rising insulin prices are those in high-deductible health plans, says Young Fried, vice president of pharmacy plan services. But she says insulin affordability is also an issue for Medicare members who are in the Part D “doughnut hole.”

One tactic that the organization’s health plan deploys to ease the burden on members is a policy called “plan pay the difference,” Fried says. If a brand drug becomes cheaper than the generic version after rebates, “we would actually have the member pay the generic copay instead of the brand, and then we would reimburse the pharmacy the brand cost, so that they’re made whole as well,” she says.

Trends That Matter for Cancer Care

April 11, 2019

With more targeted and effective therapies launching to treat a variety of cancers, much of the focus has been not only on their efficacy but their costs, particularly to payers. A recent report from the physician perspective highlights their impact as far as cost on not only those stakeholders but also the patients they serve, AIS Health reported.

With more targeted and effective therapies launching to treat a variety of cancers, much of the focus has been not only on their efficacy but their costs, particularly to payers. A recent report from the physician perspective highlights their impact as far as cost on not only those stakeholders but also the patients they serve, AIS Health reported.

The Association of Community Cancer Centers released its 2018 Trending Now in Cancer Care Survey in February. Responding to the survey were 205 individuals from community cancer centers, academic centers, teaching hospitals and independent practices.

Leading the top threats to future growth were payer reimbursement requirements and “cost of drugs and/or new treatment modalities,” both at 48% among those categories ranked among the top five threats. Those were followed by “uncertainties in drug pricing reform policies,” at 40%.

When it came to patients, 49% of respondents said they had had a patient refuse treatment due to financial concerns over the past year, with 32% responding that they were not sure if that had occurred. In addition, 79% of respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about patients refusing care due to financial worries.

Trends That Matter for Cystic Fibrosis Medications

March 28, 2019

Payers typically use tools such as prior authorization and utilization review to manage cystic fibrosis treatments, but PBM experts say they are on the cusp of implementing more innovative strategies that might help to improve adherence while addressing the cost of cystic fibrosis drugs, AIS Health reported.

Payers typically use tools such as prior authorization and utilization review to manage cystic fibrosis treatments, but PBM experts say they are on the cusp of implementing more innovative strategies that might help to improve adherence while addressing the cost of cystic fibrosis drugs, AIS Health reported.

Cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that attacks the lungs and digestive organs, is caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. CFTR modulators and other therapies carry a high price tag, typically costing $250,000 to $368,000 per year. Other drugs, most of which do not have generic equivalents, can add tens of thousands of dollars to that total.

The majority of payers use traditional strategies, including pipeline monitoring, pharmacy and therapeutics committee drug review for formulary positioning, and prior authorization to confirm both the diagnosis and the presence of the specific genetic mutation targeted by the cystic fibrosis drugs, says Lynn Nishida, vice president of clinical product at Boston-based WithMe Health.

Still, “a growing number of payers are looking for out-of-the-box solutions for additional strategies in managing these drugs,” Nishida says. Cystic fibrosis drugs typically receive orphan drug status, which means payers cover them because they’re the only option for patients, but it can also mean they’re associated with higher costs, she says.

Managing infections in cystic fibrosis patients is a priority, says Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx. However, effective antibiotics are also a main driver of cost.

Adherence to cystic fibrosis medications can be a challenge to manage, with studies showing a total reported mean adherence rate of 48% and a large drop-off in adherence in the adolescent years.

 

Trends That Matter for Drug Spending

March 14, 2019

For its first annual drug trend report as a part of Cigna Corp., Express Scripts Holding Co. said it had achieved a record low drug trend of 0.4% across its clients’ employer-sponsored commercial plans in 2018. Overall, the PBM reported savings of $45 billion for its clients last year, AIS Health reported.

For its first annual drug trend report as a part of Cigna Corp., Express Scripts Holding Co. said it had achieved a record low drug trend of 0.4% across its clients’ employer-sponsored commercial plans in 2018. Overall, the PBM reported savings of $45 billion for its clients last year, AIS Health reported.

The PBM cited “an unprecedented 0.3% decline” in per-beneficiary drug spending across Medicare plans. Overall, there was a 1.4% decrease in unit cost trend, which allowed clients to absorb a 1.1% increase in utilization, the PBM said. Oncology replaced diabetes as Medicare’s top therapy class by per member per year spend.

Express Scripts also reported falling unit drug costs for employer, Medicare and Affordable Care Act exchange plans. On the specialty side, the PBM said that although list prices for brand-name specialty drugs rose by 7.1% in 2018, specialty drug costs increased by a lower 2.1% for its employer-sponsored plans, 2.4% for its Medicare plans and 2% for its exchange plans.