Trends That Matter

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.

Trends That Matter for California Medicaid Program

February 28, 2019

Under the direction of its new governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, California is planning to take control of the pharmacy benefit for all of the state’s Medi-Cal beneficiaries, AIS Health reported.

Under the direction of its new governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, California is planning to take control of the pharmacy benefit for all of the state’s Medi-Cal beneficiaries, AIS Health reported.

Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, is served by more than 20 managed care organizations. MCOs are currently able to contract with a pharmacy benefits manager, but the new plan would allow the state to directly negotiate drug prices, purchase drugs in bulk and develop transparency on drug cost reimbursement.

With nearly 90% of the state’s 12.1 million Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in managed care, a shift to fee-for-service would entirely upend existing PBM relationships in Medi-Cal, the largest managed Medicaid program in the U.S.

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.”