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.