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Judy Packer Tursman

Senior Reporter, Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits

Recent Posts

Trends That Matter for New Sickle Cell Medications

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Dec 21, 2019

The first targeted therapy to treat pain crises in people with sickle cell disease presents a "welcome" new option that payers likely will embrace, a PBM head tells AIS Health. While the drug's manufacturer cites "positive" early discussions with payers on it, some experts note the lifetime treatment — via a monthly intravenous infusion — is costly: around $100,000 annually.

On Nov. 15, the FDA approved Novartis' Adakveo (crizanlizumab-tmca), a treatment to fight the underlying cause and reduce the frequency of vaso-occlusive crisis, described as a common and painful complication of sickle cell disease. It is approved for patients ages 16 and older with the genetic blood disorder.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Market Access, Data & Analytics

Radar On Market Access: New Sickle Cell Medications Offer Both Opportunities and Challenges

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Dec 21, 2019

The first targeted therapy to treat pain crises in people with sickle cell disease presents a "welcome" new option that payers likely will embrace, a PBM head tells AIS Health. While the drug's manufacturer cites "positive" early discussions with payers on it, some experts note the lifetime treatment — via a monthly intravenous infusion — is costly: around $100,000 annually.

On Nov. 15, the FDA approved Novartis' Adakveo (crizanlizumab-tmca), a treatment to fight the underlying cause and reduce the frequency of vaso-occlusive crisis, described as a common and painful complication of sickle cell disease. It is approved for patients ages 16 and older with the genetic blood disorder.

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Topics: Specialty, Market Access, Data & Analytics, Provider, Payer

Trends That Matter for New Cystic Fibrosis Medication

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Dec 5, 2019

The FDA recently approved a drug therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF) that is being viewed as a "game-changer" for the roughly nine in 10 patients with the rare, progressive disease who might benefit from it. Where does this leave payers facing rising specialty drug costs across the board? Industry experts predict that most payers likely will cover this latest cystic fibrosis treatment option despite an annual price tag topping $300,000, AIS Health reported.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.'s Trikafta (elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor), taken as a twice-daily pill regimen, is the first triple combination therapy available to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. The drug directly addresses the underlying cause of the illness — mutations in the CFTR protein.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Data & Analytics

Radar On Market Access: 'Breakthrough' Cystic Fibrosis Drug Could See High Demand

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Nov 14, 2019

The FDA recently approved a drug therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF) that is being viewed as a "game-changer" for the roughly nine in 10 patients with the rare, progressive disease who might benefit from it. Where does this leave payers facing rising specialty drug costs across the board? Industry experts predict that most payers likely will cover this latest cystic fibrosis treatment option despite an annual price tag topping $300,000, AIS Health reported.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.'s Trikafta (elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor), taken as a twice-daily pill regimen, is the first triple combination therapy available to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. The drug directly addresses the underlying cause of the illness — mutations in the CFTR protein.

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Topics: Specialty, Market Access, Data & Analytics, Provider, Payer

Perspectives on Blockchain Technology

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Aug 22, 2019

Industry consultants from Milliman Inc. assert in a July 11 report that blockchain — which is described as a real-time digital ledger for building secure networks — "could potentially transform the relationship between payers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies by offering an alternative, transparent mechanism for processing, pricing, and validating prescription transactions."

Using blockchain technology, payers and pharmacies would reduce the time they spend validating insurance coverage, making phone calls and managing data, Milliman explains. The firm is urging PBMs to work to "evaluate a blockchain alternative now with an eye toward a more efficient drug financing system" capable of handling additional technology improvements, AIS Health reported.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Data & Analytics, Provider, Payer

Radar On Market Access: Will Blockchain Transform Relationships Industry Wide?

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Jul 30, 2019

Industry consultants from Milliman Inc. assert in a July 11 report that blockchain — which is described as a real-time digital ledger for building secure networks — "could potentially transform the relationship between payers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies by offering an alternative, transparent mechanism for processing, pricing, and validating prescription transactions."

Using blockchain technology, payers and pharmacies would reduce the time they spend validating insurance coverage, making phone calls and managing data, Milliman explains. The firm is urging PBMs to work to "evaluate a blockchain alternative now with an eye toward a more efficient drug financing system" capable of handling additional technology improvements, AIS Health reported.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Data & Analytics, Provider, Payer

Trends That Matter for Oncology Biosimilars Management

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Jul 18, 2019

Magellan Rx Management, the PBM division of Magellan Health, Inc., on June 4 announced its launch of an oncology biosimilars program, preparing its health plan customers for the expected market entry of biosimilars for three cancer-fighting drugs — Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin — later this year, AIS Health reported.

"Oncology is by far the largest therapeutic area for drug spend on the medical benefit, and it is even higher in Medicare," Steve Cutts, senior vice president and general manager for Magellan Rx's specialty drug unit, tells AIS Health. Thus, he says, the PBM will be focusing the oncology biosimilars program "on all lines of business for our clients."
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Product Release, Data & Analytics

Perspectives on the First NASH Drugs

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Jul 11, 2019

Doctors trying to treat patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — a serious type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that, if left untreated, may progress to cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, cancer and possibly the need for a liver transplant — soon may have new options in their arsenal beyond promoting exercise and diet. The first-ever NASH drugs are expected to hit the U.S. market as early as 2020 to help address this increasingly prevalent, complex disease spawned largely by the obesity epidemic and surge of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., AIS Health reported.

Douglas Dieterich, M.D., director of the Institute for Liver Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System, says the entry of first-ever NASH medications will "definitely" offer significant benefit to patients. "There's no question [the drugs will help] — in combination with diet and exercise," he says. "It will have to be the whole package."
 
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Topics: Specialty, Industry Trends, Product Release, Provider, Payer

Radar On Market Access: States Plow Ahead on 'Subscription' Models for Hep C Therapy

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Jul 4, 2019

Last month, CMS approved Medicaid state plan amendments for Louisiana and Washington state, thus allowing the states to launch innovative value-based purchasing arrangements. Both states' programs are aimed at working with partnering drug manufacturers to better handle the high costs for curative hepatitis C treatments, and may be the harbinger of similar initiatives by additional states.

Louisiana "put the bow" on its plan to get hepatitis C treatment to Medicaid enrollees and incarcerated individuals over the next five years via a "Netflix"-like subscription model, a state official tells AIS Health.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Market Access, Provider, Payer

Perspectives on Express Script's "Digital Health Formulary"

Posted by Judy Packer Tursman on Jun 27, 2019

Cigna Corp.'s Express Script PBM expects to introduce the industry's first stand-alone "digital health formulary" in 2020, the company said May 16. It intends to use a uniform review process to ensure the safety and quality of apps and devices on the market for diabetes, cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions and behavioral health, AIS Health reported.

By creating a digital formulary, Express Scripts "is using old hat methods to manage these new digital health solutions much like they do on brand and generic drugs or other therapies via utilization management," says Nathan Ray, senior principal in business consulting firm West Monroe Partners’ health care and life sciences practice.
 
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Topics: Industry Trends, Provider, Payer