Radar on Specialty Pharmacy

  • FDA Draft Guidance Could Diminish Significance of Interchangeable Biosimilars While Promoting Use of All Biosimilars

    On March 23, 2010, then-President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law, establishing the 351(k) biosimilar pathway via the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), which amended the Public Health Service (PHS) Act. Since then, the FDA has approved more than 40 biosimilars, with only a handful of those gaining interchangeable status. That designation, however, may not carry quite the distinction it historically has had if proposed guidance from the agency — which would replace previous guidance — on labeling for interchangeable biosimilars is finalized. At the same time, the change may help promote uptake of biosimilars, bringing cost savings to the U.S. health care system, say industry sources.

    In contrast to the EU, whose European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) clarified in September 2022 that all biosimilars approved in the EU are interchangeable, the FDA has created two levels of biosimilars: biosimilars and interchangeable biosimilars.

  • Tofidence, the First Actemra Biosimilar, Brings Another Option to Treat Inflammatory Conditions

    The FDA recently approved the first biosimilar of Actemra (tocilizumab) from Genentech USA, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, for multiple indications. Both payers and rheumatologists responding to a Zitter Insights survey said they expected the new drug to have some impact on their management of and prescribing for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the drug’s lack of an additional formulation may hurt its uptake, say industry sources.

    On Sept. 29, the FDA approved Bio-Thera and Biogen Inc.’s Tofidence (tocilizumab-bavi) intravenous formulation for the treatment of adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis who have had an inadequate response to at least one disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), people at least 2 years old with active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis and people at least 2 years old with active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Dosing of the intravenous infusion is based on the indication.

  • Biosimilar Market Has Had Tremendous Year, With No Signs of Slowing

    Since the FDA approved the first biosimilar — Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) from Sandoz, then a division of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. — on March 6, 2015, the agency has approved more than 40 additional agents via the 351(k) pathway established under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), itself part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This past year has been especially busy in the space, with highlights including the launch of nine biosimilars of AbbVie Inc.’s Humira (adalimumab) and approvals of the first biosimilars of three different biologics: Biogen’s Tysabri (natalizumab), Actemra (tocilizumab) from Genentech USA, Inc., a member of the Roche Group and Stelara (ustekinumab) from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. As the FDA approves more biosimilars, uptake of these agents will continue to increase, say industry experts.
  • Report: One-Quarter of Respondents Are Considering Carving Out Specialty Drugs From Their PBM

    As the PBM and specialty pharmacy worlds have become more integrated, PBMs now are providing more specialty management services than they previously did. Only 15% of respondents to a recent survey said they carve out specialty drugs from the PBM that is providing their pharmacy benefit management, while 26% said they were considering taking this step, according to the 2023 Pharmacy Benefit Manager Customer Satisfaction Report from Pharmaceutical Strategies Group (PSG), an EPIC company.   

    The 85% of respondents whose PBMs provide both specialty and traditional pharmacy benefit management ranked formulary management of specialty drugs and financial reporting in the pharmacy benefit as the services they were most satisfied with, while they were least satisfied with management of specialty agents in the medical benefit and offering competitive discounts on specialty medications.

  • New FDA Approvals: FDA Grants Interchangeability to Byooviz

    Oct. 3: The FDA granted interchangeability to Biogen Inc. and Samsung Bioepis Co., Ltd.’s Byooviz (ranibizumab-nuna) for the treatment of neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration, macular edema following retinal vein occlusion and myopic choroidal neovascularization (mCNV). The agency first approved the biosimilar of Lucentis (ranibizumab) from Roche Group member Genentech USA, Inc. on Sept. 17, 2021.  The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is administered by intravitreal injection once a month. Dosing for mCNV is up to three months. Drugs.com lists the price of a single-dose 10 mg/mL for 0.05mL vial as more than $1,199.

    Oct. 11: The FDA expanded the approval of Fresenius Kabi’s Idacio (adalimumab-aacf) for the treatment of adults with moderate-to-severe hidradenitis suppurativa. The agency first approved the biosimilar of AbbVie Inc.’s tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker Humira (adalimumab) on Dec. 13, 2022. Dosing starts with 160 mg via subcutaneous injection on day one or split over two consecutive days, then 80 mg on day 15, and then on day 29 and subsequent doses, 40 mg every week or 80 mg every other week. The price of two single-dose prefilled pens or two single-dose prefilled glass syringes is $6,576.

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