PHARMACY

Reports: ESI may start ‘price war’ over new hepatitis C drugs

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts hopes to drive down the cost of new drugs to treat hepatitis C by pitting their manufacturers against each other, according to published reports.

Bloomberg News reported that ESI would pit companies like Gilead Sciences against others such as AbbVie when the new treatments become available in 2014 or 2015. The Food and Drug Administration announced last week the approval of Gilead’s new drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), which is designed to cut by three quarters the time needed for treatment.

Still, the drugs also are incredibly expensive, with the full 12- to 24-week course of Sovaldi costing $84,000, a cost that ESI chief medical officer Steven Miller told Bloomberg would strain the healthcare system, saying the PBM would "make some really tough formulary decisions." This would mean dropping Sovaldi from its formulary if Gilead’s competitors are willing to sell their drugs for less.

In a post Friday on his Drug Channels blog in response to the Bloomberg story, Pembroke Consulting president Adam Fein wrote that "Put another way, Express Scripts does not view more convenient dosing or administration as justification for higher pricing." Drugs from the new generation of hepatitis C treatments like Sovaldi, Johnson & Johnson’s Olysio (simeprevir) and AbbVie’s experimental three direct-acting-antiviral regimen may be superior to existing treatments — which often require patients to take several medications, including for the depression that’s a common side effect of interferon drugs — but they’re simply too expensive for payers, in other words. In a post in October, Fein noted that interchangeability with cheaper products, rapid price increases, a willingness by payers to trade off choice for cost savings and the presence of co-pay cards explained by Express Scripts excluded 48 drugs from its 2014 formulary.

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AmerisourceBergen bullish on independents

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — AmerisourceBergen is bullish when it comes to independent pharmacy, David Neu, SVP and president AmerisourceBergen, told analysts during an investor day conference on Thursday. 

"The profile of independent pharmacy has changed," Neu said. "The type of operator that you see now, on average, owns more stores than those in the past. The ones that are left are healthier. Some cases, they’re in parts of the country that are more rural, where they have more of a broad health care footprint." More and more independents are taking advantage of tools available through AmerisourceBergen’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy network, enabling them to provide more services to their community, Neu added. "They’re big advocates for health care in the country. And we provide quite a bit for them and we’ll continue to focus on that as part of our overall commercial strategy."

Neu noted that the recognition Good Neighbor Pharmacy received earlier this year from J.D. Power Award is validation of the independent’s business model. "They were named highest in customer satisfaction with chain drug store pharmacies," Neu said. "It is validation for us that we’re on the right track and that there’s a quality component here that’s showing through and continues to give us encouragement that continuing to invest here makes all the sense in the world."

 

 

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FDA advisory committee recommends approval for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s, AstraZeneca’s metreleptin in generalized lipodystrophy

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. — A panel of experts at the Food and Drug Administration has recommended approval for an experimental biotech drug under development by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca for a group of rare metabolic disorders.

The drug makers said the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 11-1 to recommend that the agency approve metreleptin for treating children and adults with generalized lipodystrophy, also known as LD. LD disorders cause severe metabolic abnormalities and significant morbidity and death. The FDA is not required to follow the votes of advisory committees when considering whether to approve a drug, but it usually does.

However, the committee did not vote in favor of recommending the drug for patients with metabolic disorders associated with partial LD, though the companies said they would continue to push for approval for that usage.

 

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