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, including site-of-service programs, 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.
Plans employ utilization management to ensure appropriate drug use — “the right drug for the right patient based on clinical guidelines,” Kunze says. “Selection of formulary agents will depend on their guideline recommendations, cost and utilization.”
Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx, notes that prior authorization is required for the anti-TNF inhibitors and biologic products, and that generics are available for some of the products. Meanwhile, he adds, rebates traditionally have been used to reduce unit cost for expensive brand name products, which then lowers overall costs.
Fenrick says that in addition to prior authorization and care management, plans also may employ site-of-service strategies for the infused products, ensuring members have access to the medications in the most cost-effective sites. Finally, “payers are looking at indication-based contracts, given that many of the biologics have a variety of indications with varying levels of clinical efficacy,” Kunze says.