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Pharmacy Trends for 2013 and Beyond

May 29, 2013 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com

As pharmacy trends shift and costs for plan sponsors increase, we continue to maintain a panoramic view of the industry to control medication spend for our clients. By keeping plan sponsors informed of these shifts and our strategies for handling them, plan sponsors are empowered to make informed choices about their pharmacy benefit plans. In the spirit of our transparent business approach, following are some key trends we foresee occurring in this marketplace.

Generics Plateau

In 2012, new generics entering the market reached record highs, with more than 80% market share as two major brand products (Lipitor and Plavix) lost their patents. The product with the fastest growth in 2012 was atorvastatin  – the generic version of Lipitor. The medications were considered blockbuster agents, with more than $1 billion in annual sales before turning generic.

While sales of generics grew, sales of brands decreased. Because of the influx of generic products, 2012 was a marquee year. As such, we expect fewer generics exclusivity periods in coming years, and generics are expected to reach a ceiling where they can no longer surpass their current market saturation.

Growth & Trend by Therapy Class

Therapy classes with the most growth in 2012, based on total scripts dispensed, included:

• Anti-depressants • Seizure disorders • Proton Pump Inhibitors

The top five therapy classes, which accounted for one-third of plan sponsor drug spend, included:

• Oncologics  (used to treat cancer) • Respiratory agents (used to treat asthma and Chronic   Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)) • Antidiabetics (used to lower elevated blood sugars) • Lipid regulators (used to lower high cholesterol or related   disorders) • Antipsychotics (used to treat schizophrenia and related   disorders)

Trends in Specialty

Less than one percent of the U.S. population uses specialty medications, but these products account for 25% of all pharmacy spend. As you are aware, the staggering costs in this pharmacy channel are not new. The good news is that we hope to see increased competition soon, with 38 specialty products expected to have patent expirations through 2017, and new legislation that will promote competition in this therapeutic space.

At the same time, the FDA has approved many more drugs in recent years that treat oncology and orphan diseases. Orphan drugs are used in treating very rare diseases, known as orphan diseases. Because of the niche market on these products, the cost to produce and sell them is very high. For instance, five of the most recently approved orphan drugs will cost at least $150,000 per patient per year. Costs for these products will only continue to rise, since drug makers and biotechnology companies for these products currently have no competition.

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.

70% of Employers Do Not Know What They are Spending on Specialty Pharmacy

October 03, 2011 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: PRNewswire, 9/29/2011, Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH)

Few employers have a thorough understanding of specialty pharmacy benefits, and only a fraction are of them are aggressively managing what is becoming one of the fastest-growing areas of health care spending, a new survey shows.

A national survey released Sept. 29 by the nonprofit Midwest Business Group on Health in Chicago, one of the nation’s largest business coalitions, found:

Survey Findings

  • 70% do not know how much their company was spending on specialty drugs
  • 25% of employers have little or no understanding of specialty pharmacy and
  • 53% have only a moderate understanding.
  • 30% indicated that they did not know how much their total specialty pharmacy claim costs had increased during the past three to five years.

“In addition to the uncertainty and challenges that health reform and the economy are placing on employers, health plans and pharmacy benefit managers, the real driver of drug cost trend growth for employers lies in biologics and specialty pharmacy,” said Cheryl Larson, MBGH Vice President, in a statement. “Our research confirms there is a broad lack of awareness and specific knowledge about benefit design related to specialty pharmacy that illustrates key gaps that need to be addressed.”

The objectives of the survey were to identify and assess the level of knowledge and benefit design gaps of employer plan sponsors in the area of specialty medications and biologic products used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis. These drugs often require special approvals for their use, instructions on dosing and side effects, and appropriate storage and distribution.

The proportion of employers’ pharmacy benefit expenditures attributable to 

  • Specialty drugs grew by 17.4% in 2010, the fastest pace since 2004, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc.’s 2011 Drug Trend Report, which found that
  • Specialty drugs represented 16.3% of total health benefit costs.

How survey was conducted

The survey was conducted by MBGH in July 2011 with guidance from Randy Vogenberg, principal at the Institute for Integrated Health Inc., a Baltimore-based consultant that provides integrated pharmaceutical benefits consulting and education to self-insured employers and business coalitions.

Of the 120 employers responding to the survey,

  • 69% were self-insured,
  • 19% were fully insured, and
  • 13% offered a combination of self-insured and fully insured benefit plans.
  • Employers responding ranged in size from 500 to 25,000 employees.

About Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH)

The Chicago based Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) was founded in January 1980 by a small group of large Midwest employers to help employers and their population obtain more value from their health care benefit dollars.

The Three Behavioral Factors Driving Rx Spend Waste

September 27, 2011 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: Express Scripts 9.27.11

“We have long used financial incentive to eliminate waste. Now we’re finding that tools that build upon the insights of behavioral economics and psychology can have powerful, positive effects.”
- Alan Garber, MD, PhD, Professor of Health Economics, Stanford University

The above quote is from Dr. Alan Garber, one of the most respected healthcare economists in the country. Dr. Garber recognizes that Plan Sponsors have a critical need for a “new toolbox” to help eliminate healthcare spend waste and drive better behavior.

Plan Sponsors will certainly agree with the statement “behavior is important”, but they are also acutely concerned with dollars. They will want to know specifically – in hard dollars – how behavior is impacting their costs.

What stands between the doctor and optimal health outcomes is consumer behavior. Wasteful pharmacy-related behavior costs the healthcare system a staggering $403 billion a year:

Drug Mix: $51 billion – People using a brand drug when a generic drug would be just as effective

Channel Choice: $6 billion – People choosing to continue to get their maintenance medication at a retail pharmacy instead of using home delivery

Non Adherence: $106 billion – People not taking their medications appropriately

Clearly, consumer behavior is a factor that you cannot leave out of the equation when trying to get the most out of your pharmacy benefit. So what can we do to motivate people to change? To improve Rx spend effectiveness?

Most PBMs offer two options to increase the effectiveness of the plans performance – passive education programs and mandatory programs. Mandatory programs are effective, but because of the potential for noise, many Plan Sponsors have not wanted to use them. Passive programs solve the noise issue, but don’t achieve the effectiveness that most plans need today. So how do we move from where we are today to maximizing plan performance without putting mandatory programs in place?

We can close a great deal of this gap by applying the behavioral sciences to healthcare. This allows Plan Sponsors to achieve greater effectiveness without the member disruption.

CVS Caremark Research Illustrates How Innovative Pharmacy Benefit Plan Design Optimizes Generic Utilization

March 11, 2010 By: Jason A. Klein Category: Free Prescriptions, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

Medtipster Source: CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS), 10/13/2009, http://info.cvscaremark.com/newsroom

This is an old release from November 2009, BUT I really liked it and have been meaning to post it for some time now.  The message of the CVS Caremark release and the study is: We as an industry need to advise benefit payors to focus on changing consumer utilization behavior rather than  shifting cost. This study took 15,000 people, gave them a $0.00 copay on generic medications. What happened? Overall plan costs decreased due to a GDR (generic dispensing rate) increase and therapy compliance/adherence increased in key classes (antihyperlipidemics, antihypertensives, antidiabetics). WOW…who would have thought that by giving away the cow, you could pay for the milk…

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ — CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) presented data at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Annual Educational Conference, which illustrates how innovative pharmacy benefit plan design can impact generic utilization. The study further underscores how pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) can work with plan sponsors to manage costs and improve health outcomes by working to change plan participant behavior through increased engagement. The study found that implementing a $0 copay structure for generic medications can be an effective strategy to increase generic dispensing, with the generic dispensing rate (GDR) increasing to 60.8 percent (a 4.2 percent increase) during the study period.

“Our 2009 Benefit Planning Survey found that clients are more interested in identifying opportunities to change plan participant behavior, rather than shift costs,” said Jack Bruner, Executive Vice President, CVS Caremark. “The data presented at AMCP illustrates an example of how we can work with our plan sponsors to change and optimize participant behavior in order to achieve increased generic utilization. These types of partnerships enable us to effectively reduce costs for both our client and their plan participants without compromising quality or access.”

In addition to an improvement in GDR during the study period, the analysis found that the average participant cost share for generic medications decreased almost 10 percent (9.4 percent decrease). In addition, the average plan cost per 30 days of therapy also exhibited a slight decline, despite the reduction in generic copayment rates. Prevalence of use in three key preventative drug classes also increased significantly (participants on cholesterol lowering therapy increased 13 percent, on antihypertensive therapy increased seven percent and on diabetic therapy increased nine percent) as a proportion of eligible patients.

“While some plan designs work to drive generic utilization by increasing brand medication copayments, this study demonstrates that lowering the generic copayment can also be an effective strategy to increase GDR,” said Mr. Bruner. “In addition, the data indicates that lowering the generic copayment may also be associated with an increase in participants taking key preventative drugs, which could positively impact adherence and overall health outcomes.”

The study was designed to evaluate the results of plan design changes, including implementation of a $0 copay for generic medications, on the GDR, plan participant cost and impact of plan participant behavior changes on health outcomes. During the study period, participants were allowed to fill prescriptions for generic medications at a preferred retail pharmacy network at a zero dollar copay. The study included 15,000 plan participants covered by a self-funded employer group who were continuously enrolled under the benefit for the duration of the study period (12/1/2007 through 7/31/2009). 

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