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The Importance Of Specialty Medication Management

January 03, 2013 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: Navitus Clinical Journal, Vol. 9 – January 2013

Approximately one to five percent of the population uses specialty medications. Nonetheless, spending for specialty medications has increased between 15 and 20% for the last several years and is expected to represent up to 40% of an employer’s total medical spend by 2020. Controlling specialty medication cost is therefore a critical focus area for plan sponsors. With more and more specialty drugs coming down the pipeline, it will be increasingly important for plan sponsors to manage this area of their drug spend.

Managing this highly complex area involves coordination among multiple parties, including plan sponsor, pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), medical administrator, specialty pharmacy and the patient.

Benefits of Specialty Drug Control
Growth in specialty spending is expected to outpace non-specialty spending due to:

  1. High proportion of newly approved drugs in the specialty market
  2. Complex and expensive manufacturing processes
  3. Limited competition within specialty medication therapy classes

It is clear that plan sponsors can benefit from managing specialty costs. While specialty medications may represent a low percentage of the drugs purchased by the plan sponsor’s members, the cost of these medications represents much more than the actual percentage of medications purchased.

In addition to cost control, helping members adhere to their regimens with specialty medications is essential, as high adherence rates have been shown to reduce hospitalizations, promote better health outcomes and lower overall health care costs.

Ways to Manage Specialty Medications

1. Implement a Mandatory Program

We recommend that plan sponsors implement a SpecialtyRx program as mandatory for members with specialty needs. Specialty programs coordinate personalized support for patients impacted by chronic and complex diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Such diseases often require complicated medication regimens that include specialty medications. By mandating use of a specialty pharmacy vendor, plan sponsors reap the benefits of reduced drug discounts with specialty pharmacy partners (versus the typically higher retail pharmacy pricing), superior clinical oversight, and individual member case management

2. Incorporate a Split-Fill Program

A  Specialty Split-Fill Program reduces days’ supply to 15-day intervals for qualifying high-cost specialty medications that typically have high discontinuation rates within the first three months of therapy. This prevents unnecessary dispensing of two weeks of therapy, should therapy be discontinued within the first half of the first three months of a prescription. This program also allows specialty pharmacy to initiate earlier clinical interventions due to medication side effects that require dose modification or therapy discontinuation. According to the May 2012 issue of Managed Care, a health plan with about 500,000 members saved approximately $300,000 in its first year with a split-fill program.

3. Know your Specialty Costs Through Pharmacy & Medical

Plan sponsors should equip themselves with information about their specialty drug spend and track specialty costs not only through their PBM but through their medical vendor as well. Less than 20% of health plans and employers currently receive reporting from their PBMs or other health care vendors on medical specialty utilization. Given that plan sponsors identified specialty drug costs as one of their two most important outcomes for specialty management, and that 50% or more of the specialty spend resides on the medical side, this gap represents a critical area of opportunity.

4. Managed Specialty Programs relieve clients of the burden of managing their specialty populations and assume this responsibility through a comprehensive, patient-centric program that offers:

  • Built-in utilization management edits (e.g., prior authorization, step therapy) to ensure members use lower cost specialty products, where appropriate.
  • Continually negotiated lower discounts with specialty pharmacies.
  • Price increase protection built into rebate contracts for specialty drugs, where available, to account for price inflation; that is, when certain products increase in price, rebates for those products automatically increase as well.
  • Continual monitoring of new drugs entering the pipeline. Their Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee will continue to monitor and evaluate specialty drugs, including any biosimilars being released. Biosimilars are products that are chemically similar to other products; very few have received FDA approval at this point. We expect biosimilars will be significantly less expensive than their specialty brand medication alternatives and will play a bigger role in controlling specialty trend in the future.

As an example, a plan sponsor’s employee has a very expensive specialty medication. This specialty drug utilization represents less than 2% of total utilization, but accounts for, on average, half of the plan sponosor’s drug spend. The previous discount for the drug was under 20% off the average wholesale price. After its transition to a managed specialty program, the discount for this drug rose to 47% off the average wholesale price, providing a savings of more than $140,000 in the first three quarters.

How to Begin to Control Specialty

If you do not currently use a mandatory program, talk to your provider today to implement the program. Plan sponsors can reap the benefits of  preferred pricing via a specialty pharmacy, and their members can benefit from the one-on-one specialized care from the case managers available through  specialty pharmacy vendors.

Be proactive and take control of this sector of your plan’s drug spend. By maintaining a tightly managed specialty program, not only will plan sponsors benefit from reduced costs, but their members will also benefit from improved overall health.

Drug Makers Raised Prices Sharply in ’09

April 20, 2010 By: Nadia Category: Medtipster, Prescription News

www.Medtipster.com Source: Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2010

Drug companies sharply raised prices last year, ahead of increased rebates they must pay to Medicaid and other expenses tied to the federal health overhaul passed last month.

Prices for brand-name pharmaceuticals rose 9.1% last year, the biggest increase in at least a decade, according to pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts Inc., which included the recent number in its annual drug-trend report. The boost for specialty drugs, a category that is largely biotech products, was even sharper: 11.5%. In 2008, the price rise had been 7.4% for traditional pharmaceuticals, and 9.4% for specialty drugs.

Some individual drugs saw double-digit increases in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, including 12.1% on Zetia, a cholesterol drug from Merck & Co., and 13.6% for Cymbalta, an antidepressant from Eli Lilly & Co., according to data from Credit Suisse. The firm, which tracks the pricing of brand-name drugs made by the biggest U.S. manufacturers, found wholesale prices went up 7.8% in the first quarter, compared with a year earlier.

The increases were “exacerbated by the health-care reform debate,” said Steve Miller, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts, although drug makers disputed that notion.

An Eli Lilly spokesman said its pricing policies last year weren’t affected by the health bill, and such decisions take into account benefits for patients as well as “marketplace conditions and recovery of our R&D costs.”

But Lilly did caution shareholders Monday that rebates to Medicaid, as well as other provisions in the law, would lower its 2010 revenue by $350 million to $400 million, and 2011 revenue by $600 million to $700 million.

A Merck spokesman said its “price adjustments are independent of health-care reform,” and are instead driven by an approach that aims to “ensure patient access and enable Merck to invest in research and development.”

Zetia’s pricing for most of last year was controlled by an independent joint venture involving Merck and Schering-Plough Corp., which are now merged, the company added. Both Merck and Lilly said the pricing numbers didn’t reflect the effects of rebates and discounts granted to many health-care payers.

The health law will also require the drug industry to knock off half the price paid by Medicare beneficiaries in their “doughnut hole” coverage gap starting in 2011, among other expenses, though the pharmaceutical companies will also benefit from an influx of newly insured consumers that will kick in later.

The effects of the price increases on overall drug spending are being tempered by the availability and aggressive promotion of cheaper generic alternatives, among other factors.

In its report, which reflects the drug benefits it administers for corporate clients, Express Scripts also said drug spending went up only 6.4% in 2009, slightly more than last year but lower than five years earlier.

Indeed, a report this month from IMS Health said that the number of prescriptions dispensed for generic drugs rose 5.9% last year, but those for branded drugs fell 7.6%.

Overall spending on prescription drugs rose just 5.1% according to IMS, which looks at different data than Express Scripts.

Another reason for price increases is probably that insurers, employers and pharmacy-benefit managers have become “much more difficult gatekeepers,” said Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold. Discounts and rebates used to promote branded drugs precipitate price increases to offset those marketing costs.

Also, as drugs go generic, companies mark up the prices of the brand-name versions, assuming that patients who stick with those “are the people for whom price doesn’t matter,” said Mark McClellan, who formerly oversaw the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the Bush administration and is now at the Brookings Institution.

Express Scripts, which is based in St. Louis and has 36 million people in its commercial client group, said the actual drug-spending increase — as opposed to the price markup — was 4.8% for traditional pharmaceuticals, to $800.23 per member per year, and 19.5% in specialty drugs, to $111.10 per member per year.

Big increases in spending occurred in several areas, including diabetes, driven by the growing number of people diagnosed with the disease, and antiviral drugs, due to flu concerns.

The pharmacy-benefit manager said its clients were able to help keep the increase in check through use of generics and other moves. But it argued that, across the entire U.S. market, there could be significantly greater health-care savings tied to how drugs are taken.

The company estimated the savings at $163 billion a year, which could be achieved with greater use of generics and better adherence by patients prescribed drugs, both tactics that Express Scripts pitches to clients as among services it can provide.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager Fees Must Be Reported on Schedule C

February 22, 2010 By: Nadia Category: Medtipster, Prescription News

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, 2/2010

The Department of Labor published FAQs to supplement FAQs published in July 2008, and to provide further guidance in response to additional questions from plans and service providers on the requirements for reporting service provider fees and other compensation on the Schedule C of the 2009 Form 5500 Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan. Inquiries regarding these supplemental FAQs may be directed to EBSA’s Office of Regulations and Interpretations at 202.693.8523.

The new FAQs — numbers 26 and 27 — note that PBMs perform many services for which they are compensated, including services as a third-party administrator, claims processor, and developer of the plan’s formulary and pharmacy network. The FAQs make clear that fees for these services would be reportable as direct compensation on Schedule C.

Q26: Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) provide services to plans and are compensated for these services in various ways. How should this compensation be reported?

PBMs often act as third party administrators for ERISA plan prescription drug programs and perform many activities to manage their clients’ prescription drug insurance coverage. They are generally engaged to be responsible for processing and paying prescription drug claims. They can also be engaged to develop and maintain the plan’s formulary and assemble networks of retail pharmacies that a plan sponsor’s members can use to fill prescriptions. PBMs receive fees for these services that are reportable compensation for Schedule C purposes. For example, dispensing fees charged by the PBM for each prescription filled by its mail-order pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, or a pharmacy that is a member of the PBM’s retail network and paid with plan assets would be reportable as direct compensation. Likewise, administrative fees paid with plan assets, whether or not reflected as part of the dispensing fee, would be reportable direct compensation on the Schedule C. Payments by the plan or payments by the plan sponsor that are reimbursed by the plan for ancillary administrative services such as recordkeeping, data management and information reporting, formulary management, participant health desk service, benefit education, utilization review, claims adjudication, participant communications, reporting services, website services, prior authorization, clinical programs, pharmacy audits, and other services would also be reportable direct compensation.

Q27: PBMs may receive rebates or discounts from the pharmaceutical manufacturers based on the amount of drugs a PBM purchases or other factors. Do such rebates and discounts need to be reported as indirect compensation on Schedule C?

Because formulary listings will affect a drug’s sales, pharmaceutical manufacturers compete to ensure that their products are included on PBM formularies. For example, PBMs often negotiate discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers based on the drugs bought and sold by PBMs or dispensed under ERISA plans administered by a PBM. These discounts and rebates go under various names, for example, “formulary payments” to obtain formulary status and “market-share payments” to encourage PBMs to dispense particular drugs. The Department is currently considering the extent to which PBM discount and rebate revenue attributable to a PBM’s business with ERISA plans may properly be classified as compensation related to services provided to the plans. Thus, in the absence of further guidance from the Department, discount and rebate revenue received by PBMs from pharmaceutical companies generally do not need to be treated as reportable indirect compensation for Schedule C purposes, even if the discount or rebate may be based in part of the quantity of drugs dispensed under ERISA plans administered by the PBM. If, however, the plan and the PBM agree that such rebates or discounts (or earnings on rebates and discounts held by the PBM) would be used to compensate the PBM for managing the plan’s prescription drug coverage, dispensing prescriptions or other administrative and ancillary services, that revenue would be reportable indirect compensation notwithstanding that the funds were derived from rebates or discounts.

More information to follow via our blog at www.medtipster.com

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