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Radar On Market Access: UnitedHealth Bolsters OptumRx With Genoa Buy

October 23, 2018

UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Genoa Healthcare — the fifth largest pharmacy chain in the country — gives OptumRx an edge in a competitive PBM space where companies are racing to innovate, one expert tells AIS Health.

Ashraf Shehata, a principal in KPMG’s health care and life sciences advisory practice, says not only does the purchase add to UnitedHealth’s ever-growing size — “and bigger is always better” — but it also helps give the company a boost in a highly competitive environment where the CVS Health Corp./Aetna Inc.

UnitedHealth Group’s acquisition of Genoa Healthcare — the fifth largest pharmacy chain in the country — gives OptumRx an edge in a competitive PBM space where companies are racing to innovate, one expert tells AIS Health.

Ashraf Shehata, a principal in KPMG’s health care and life sciences advisory practice, says not only does the purchase add to UnitedHealth’s ever-growing size — “and bigger is always better” — but it also helps give the company a boost in a highly competitive environment where the CVS Health Corp./Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp./Express Scripts Holding Co. deals are changing the game.

More broadly, Shehata says the acquisition allows UnitedHealth to further expand its capabilities beyond the traditional health plan and PBM space.

By focusing on behavioral health care, Genoa Healthcare picked a niche that historically has not been one of the more glamorous — or highly reimbursed — focus areas, he points out. However, “what’s nice is that niche now is becoming quite important,” as the opioid epidemic continues to roil the nation and affect both the commercially and publicly insured. “So I think the time is right….This asset is really something that’s very interesting for really a broad swath of the industry now,” Shehata adds.

Shehata says the purchase of Genoa Healthcare lends itself best to OptumRx defining itself as a payer-owned PBM model, rather than a retail-focused PBM or “the ultimate hybrid” of health plan, retailer and PBM — like what the CVS/Aetna combination will create.

That’s because Genoa will bolster OptumRx’s ability to care for populations with complex health needs, he says, which is a function more often associated with a payer-owned PBM.

“A transaction of this kind is really building on the scale and capabilities of the health plan — the ability to really integrate around care management and medical protocols, I think, is going to be critical,” he adds.

MMIT Reality Check on Respiratory (Asthma/COPD) (Oct 2018)

October 19, 2018

According to our recent payer coverage analysis for asthma and COPD treatments, combined with news from key healthcare influencers, market access is shifting in this drug landscape.

To help make sense of this new research, MMIT’s team of experts analyzes the data and summarizes the key findings for you. The following are brief highlights. To read the full piece, including payer coverage, drug competition and prescriber trends, click here.

Payer Coverage: About 4% of the lives are restricted under commercial and health exchange policies,

According to our recent payer coverage analysis for asthma and COPD treatments, combined with news from key healthcare influencers, market access is shifting in this drug landscape.

To help make sense of this new research, MMIT’s team of experts analyzes the data and summarizes the key findings for you. The following are brief highlights. To read the full piece, including payer coverage, drug competition and prescriber trends, click here.

Payer Coverage: About 4% of the lives are restricted under commercial and health exchange policies, while about 9% of Medicare beneficiaries are covered.

Trends:  The new drugs give payers some cost-saving options and might pull some market share from Advair due to the price difference.

Radar On Market Access: Drug Prices Increases Are Expected to Slow

October 18, 2018

Pharmaceuticals are expected to undergo a 4.92% price increase from 2018 to 2019, according to the recently released July-August 2018 Drug Price Forecast from Vizient. That’s actually a slowing from the 7.61% increase for 2018, AIS Health reported.

The company conducted its analysis using price and volume data from hospital and non-acute facilities participating in its Vizient Pharmacy Program. Among Vizient members, therapeutic classes with the highest spend include many with specialty drugs.

Pharmaceuticals are expected to undergo a 4.92% price increase from 2018 to 2019, according to the recently released July-August 2018 Drug Price Forecast from Vizient. That’s actually a slowing from the 7.61% increase for 2018, AIS Health reported.

The company conducted its analysis using price and volume data from hospital and non-acute facilities participating in its Vizient Pharmacy Program. Among Vizient members, therapeutic classes with the highest spend include many with specialty drugs.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic agents lead the way with an estimated 8.57% increase, followed by the immunomodulatory agents for multiple sclerosis, at 7.33%. According to the report, “Based on the total amount of spend across care environments, the types of molecular entities approved by the FDA, and the investigational products in the development pipeline, it is certain that specialty pharmaceuticals will continue to play an increasingly important role in pharmacy budgeting.”

However, a handful of events have occurred that are helping slow drug price increases, including CMS giving biosimilars a unique reimbursement code and pass-through status, as well as the administration’s initiative to bring down drug prices.

Challenges within the system include the fragility of the pharmaceutical supply chain, which is leading to multiple drug shortages, and novel new medications that launch at very high prices.

Perspectives on Indication-Based Formularies in Part D

October 18, 2018

The Trump administration continues to take steps aimed at bringing down drug prices. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an Aug. 29 memo to Medicare Part D plan sponsors that they can begin using indication-based formularies in contract year 2020, AIS Health reported.

Starting in 2020, “Part D sponsors may utilize step therapy-like requirements within their [prior authorization] to promote cost-effective drug therapy by requiring the use of one formulary drug for a certain indication prior to authorizing coverage of a second drug for that indication,”

The Trump administration continues to take steps aimed at bringing down drug prices. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an Aug. 29 memo to Medicare Part D plan sponsors that they can begin using indication-based formularies in contract year 2020, AIS Health reported.

Starting in 2020, “Part D sponsors may utilize step therapy-like requirements within their [prior authorization] to promote cost-effective drug therapy by requiring the use of one formulary drug for a certain indication prior to authorizing coverage of a second drug for that indication,” explains the memo.

Experts say there are multiple benefits to using indication-based formularies. According to Andrew Cournoyer, R.Ph., vice president at Precision for Value, plan sponsors will have the “ability to negotiate steeper discounts in the specialty space — not tied into a single rate for utilization of a product across multiple indications.”

Plans also will be able “to assign a combination of higher payment and/or lower cost share for a treatment used for a particular indication, where evidence shows that this treatment for that indication is likely to yield a better outcome compared to alternative treatments,” says Elan Rubinstein, Pharm.D., principal at EB Rubinstein Associates. In addition, for uses of a drug in which evidence offers worse outcomes compared with alternatives, plans can “assign a lower payment and/or a higher cost share,” he adds.

The policy, however, has multiple potential downsides and risks. Cournoyer points out that it won’t impact the broader population. And Rubinstein questions “what constitutes sufficient evidence to support preference for one product over another as a matter of policy and benefit design, if there are patient-specific variables such as severity, age, mobility, comorbidities or other matters that should be taken into consideration?”

Rubinstein also suggests that another challenge will be how payers can “verify the correctness of a drug written for a preferred indication.”

Perspectives on Indication-Based Formularies in Part D

October 18, 2018

The Trump administration continues to take steps aimed at bringing down drug prices. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an Aug. 29 memo to Medicare Part D plan sponsors that they can begin using indication-based formularies in contract year 2020, AIS Health reported.

Starting in 2020, “Part D sponsors may utilize step therapy-like requirements within their [prior authorization] to promote cost-effective drug therapy by requiring the use of one formulary drug for a certain indication prior to authorizing coverage of a second drug for that indication,”

The Trump administration continues to take steps aimed at bringing down drug prices. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an Aug. 29 memo to Medicare Part D plan sponsors that they can begin using indication-based formularies in contract year 2020, AIS Health reported.

Starting in 2020, “Part D sponsors may utilize step therapy-like requirements within their [prior authorization] to promote cost-effective drug therapy by requiring the use of one formulary drug for a certain indication prior to authorizing coverage of a second drug for that indication,” explains the memo.

Experts say there are multiple benefits to using indication-based formularies. According to Andrew Cournoyer, R.Ph., vice president at Precision for Value, plan sponsors will have the “ability to negotiate steeper discounts in the specialty space — not tied into a single rate for utilization of a product across multiple indications.”

Plans also will be able “to assign a combination of higher payment and/or lower cost share for a treatment used for a particular indication, where evidence shows that this treatment for that indication is likely to yield a better outcome compared to alternative treatments,” says Elan Rubinstein, Pharm.D., principal at EB Rubinstein Associates. In addition, for uses of a drug in which evidence offers worse outcomes compared with alternatives, plans can “assign a lower payment and/or a higher cost share,” he adds.

The policy, however, has multiple potential downsides and risks. Cournoyer points out that it won’t impact the broader population. And Rubinstein questions “what constitutes sufficient evidence to support preference for one product over another as a matter of policy and benefit design, if there are patient-specific variables such as severity, age, mobility, comorbidities or other matters that should be taken into consideration?”

Rubinstein also suggests that another challenge will be how payers can “verify the correctness of a drug written for a preferred indication.”