Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Will Specialty Oncology Products Follow the Sovaldi Way?

Bruce Feinberg, DO, vice president and chief medical officer of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions, moderated the panel that consisted of Scott Gottlieb, MD, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Brian Kiss, MD, vice president of healthcare transformation at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida; Michael Kolodziej, MD, national medical director for oncology strategy at Aetna; and Ted Okon, MBA, executive director of Community Oncology Alliance (COA).

While precision medicine has tremendous potential and expands patient options, the growth in the field of oral therapeutics will significantly affect payers, said Feinberg, because of the arbitrary separation that exists between pharmacy benefit and medical benefit. Feinberg explained that oral therapeutics will have a huge impact on physician clinics where chemotherapeutic infusions were traditionally administered, because not all clinics have the ability to dispense these medications through an onsite pharmacy, and in many cases state laws prohibit it. He also questioned whether oral treatments will be effective in maintaining patient-centeredness.

Patients often mistake oral therapy for a cheaper alternative to chemotherapy, said Okon. He agreed with Feinberg that with oral medications accounting for 25% to 35% of the oncology pipeline, we have a new situation to which everyone must adapt. Okon went on to explain the real-world problems with oral therapeutics, especially concerning treatment adherence.  


While the provider retains control with infusion treatments, with oral drugs, the onus lies with the patient. “We’ve done a lot of research at COA on this, and basically, it’s actually tied to cost,” he said. According to Okon, studies have shown that irrespective of cost, 10% of patients don’t fill even the first prescription, which complicates clinical and payer decisions if the treatment fails. 

Feinberg turned to the payers in the room, asking each to explain the strategy for medication therapy management, adherence, compliance, and persistence, and how these expensive medications impact the overall payer budget.

The Payer Strategy

Kiss said that payers have found a way out: negotiating price deals with vendors. But these channels may not be accessible to a clinical oncologist, he said. “So you have a drug that’s $1000, which may be the patient’s out-of-pocket cost. They take the prescription to their Walgreens. And you know Walgreens can get the drug in 48 hours and still do it, but [now] instead of being $1000, it may be $1400.” These variables have resulted in an increasing shift of cost burden to the patient, according to Kiss. 

Another complication is that patients have the option of receiving these oral oncology drugs by mail order; if they cannot tolerate the side effects of the drug, they might stop taking them in a few days, “Which can result in huge wastage because now they have the rest of the month’s supply in their medicine cabinet.” Both Feinberg and Kiss noted that this problem is not confined to oncology; already, we are seeing a spillover into rheumatology and other therapeutic areas where novel oral therapeutics are being developed. 

See more at: http://www.ajmc.com/journals/evidence-based-oncology/2015/The-American-Society-of-Clinical-Oncology-Annual-Meeting-2015/Will-Specialty-Oncology-Products-Follow-the-Sovaldi-Way#sthash.jGnchLVI.dpuf

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