Drug Benefits

Merck COVID-19 Drug Could Gain Emergency Use Authorization

October 14, 2021

Merck & Co. has made waves by claiming one of its antiviral drugs, molnupiravir, could reduce hospitalizations for COVID-19 by roughly half — as has the company’s announced plans to seek emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for the drug.

Experts are optimistic that the drug could be the first of several new therapeutics and prophylactics for COVID-19 — but caution that molnupiravir may not be right for every patient, requires scaled-up production and could be more costly in the commercial market than many expect.

Merck & Co. has made waves by claiming one of its antiviral drugs, molnupiravir, could reduce hospitalizations for COVID-19 by roughly half — as has the company’s announced plans to seek emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for the drug.

Experts are optimistic that the drug could be the first of several new therapeutics and prophylactics for COVID-19 — but caution that molnupiravir may not be right for every patient, requires scaled-up production and could be more costly in the commercial market than many expect.

Merck on Oct. 1 claimed in a press release that “molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death [from COVID-19] by approximately 50%.” However, the firm’s clinical trial data has not yet been released for peer review or to the FDA.

Unlock the full version of this article by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More

More MA-PD, PDP Members Will Be in 4-Star Plans in 2022

October 14, 2021

CMS, in its recent release of 2022 star ratings for private Medicare plans, reported that the percentage of members in plans rated 4 stars and above rose for both Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plans and stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs).

MA-PD plans’ performance is getting the most buzz — perhaps because an eye-popping 90% of current enrollees are in plans that will be rated 4 stars or higher in 2022, up from 77% of MA-PD enrollees in 2021. Still, PDPs’ year-over-year percentage increase of members in highly rated plans is also notable.

CMS, in its recent release of 2022 star ratings for private Medicare plans, reported that the percentage of members in plans rated 4 stars and above rose for both Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plans and stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs).

MA-PD plans’ performance is getting the most buzz — perhaps because an eye-popping 90% of current enrollees are in plans that will be rated 4 stars or higher in 2022, up from 77% of MA-PD enrollees in 2021. Still, PDPs’ year-over-year percentage increase of members in highly rated plans is also notable.

Last year, CMS said that weighted by enrollment, about 17% of PDP enrollees were in contracts that would be awarded 4 or more stars in 2021. And in this year’s fact sheet about the 2022 star ratings, the agency said that about 42% of current PDP enrollees are in contracts that received a rating of 4 or more stars.

Unlock the full version of this article by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More

PhRMA Blasts Poll About Gov’t Drug Price Negotiation Support

October 14, 2021

With Congress continuing to debate a measure that would allow the Medicare program to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll has found that “large majorities” of U.S. adults support such a move, “and this support holds steady even after the public is provided the arguments being presented by parties on both sides of the legislative debate.”

But the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is striking back, with a spokesperson sending an email to reporters on Oct. 12 that accuses KFF of “joining the partisan fray and political advocacy groups who are trying desperately to build congressional support for government price-setting.”

With Congress continuing to debate a measure that would allow the Medicare program to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll has found that “large majorities” of U.S. adults support such a move, “and this support holds steady even after the public is provided the arguments being presented by parties on both sides of the legislative debate.”

But the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is striking back, with a spokesperson sending an email to reporters on Oct. 12 that accuses KFF of “joining the partisan fray and political advocacy groups who are trying desperately to build congressional support for government price-setting.”

With its poll question, PhRMA argues, KFF abandons its history of objective queries about the trade-offs of Medicare drug price negotiation and instead uses “obvious bias” to frame the argument as “supporters” versus “opponents,” while also “providing unbalanced arguments on each side.”

Unlock the full version of this article by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More

Prime Therapeutics Taps Amazon for Home Delivery

October 14, 2021

Prime Therapeutics LLC is launching a new kind of shopping experience for members of participating Blue Cross Blue Shield plans called MedsYourWay, and its first offering includes a home delivery option through Amazon Pharmacy.

Through the Amazon Pharmacy partnership, MedsYourWay gives consumers “simplified sign-up, real-time medication price displays and an integrated MedsYourWay prescription discount card administered by Inside Rx1,” according to a press release.

Prime Therapeutics LLC is launching a new kind of shopping experience for members of participating Blue Cross Blue Shield plans called MedsYourWay, and its first offering includes a home delivery option through Amazon Pharmacy.

Through the Amazon Pharmacy partnership, MedsYourWay gives consumers “simplified sign-up, real-time medication price displays and an integrated MedsYourWay prescription discount card administered by Inside Rx1,” according to a press release.

“The first interaction is often the toughest when you are going into these digital experiences,” Mark Renze, vice president of strategic partnerships with Prime Therapeutics, tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT. Prime Therapeutics is aiming to change that through the Amazon Pharmacy partnership, which offers consumers a familiar shopping experience paired with Amazon’s delivery guarantee.

Unlock the full version of this article by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More

COVID-19 Treatment Candidates, at a Glance

October 14, 2021

More than a year into the pandemic, a handful of vaccines have been authorized for the novel coronavirus in the U.S., yet there is still no cure for COVID-19. Researchers and doctors have been racing to find drugs and therapies that could treat the disease or prevent people from getting infected. Only one drug, Gilead Sciences’ Veklury (remdesivir), has been approved by the FDA, while several treatments received an emergency use authorization (EUA). Here’s a look at some of the key treatments/candidates currently in play:

More than a year into the pandemic, a handful of vaccines have been authorized for the novel coronavirus in the U.S., yet there is still no cure for COVID-19. Researchers and doctors have been racing to find drugs and therapies that could treat the disease or prevent people from getting infected. Only one drug, Gilead Sciences’ Veklury (remdesivir), has been approved by the FDA, while several treatments received an emergency use authorization (EUA). Here’s a look at some of the key treatments/candidates currently in play:

Unlock the full version of this infographic by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More

News Briefs

October 14, 2021

A pharmacy trade group made a formal request to the Dept. of Justice, asking that the government block UnitedHealth Group’s proposed acquisition of Change Healthcare Inc. “This deal would give UHG a trove of intelligence on its smaller competitors, including thousands of independent pharmacies and their patients. We believe it would use that intelligence to steer patients away from local pharmacies and send them to their own mail-order business,” said National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharm.D., in a press release. In March, Change Healthcare and UnitedHealth received a request for additional information about their proposed tie-up from the DOJ, signaling that the department would be closely scrutinizing the deal. The American Hospital Association has also asked the DOJ to block the deal. During UnitedHealth’s conference call on Oct. 14 to discuss third-quarter 2021 earnings, President and Chief Operating Officer Dirk McMahon said the firm now expects the transaction to close “in the first part of 2022.”

A pharmacy trade group made a formal request to the Dept. of Justice, asking that the government block UnitedHealth Group’s proposed acquisition of Change Healthcare Inc. “This deal would give UHG a trove of intelligence on its smaller competitors, including thousands of independent pharmacies and their patients. We believe it would use that intelligence to steer patients away from local pharmacies and send them to their own mail-order business,” said National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharm.D., in a press release. In March, Change Healthcare and UnitedHealth received a request for additional information about their proposed tie-up from the DOJ, signaling that the department would be closely scrutinizing the deal. The American Hospital Association has also asked the DOJ to block the deal. During UnitedHealth’s conference call on Oct. 14 to discuss third-quarter 2021 earnings, President and Chief Operating Officer Dirk McMahon said the firm now expects the transaction to close “in the first part of 2022.”

A mutagenic substance has been detected in three blood pressure medications, prompting the Canadian government to recall the drugs on Sept. 16. Ten firms were included in the recall, including Sanofi Inc. A chemical compound called azido impurities was detected in the recalled drugs and also led to recalls of some batches of similar drugs in the United Kingdom, European Union and South Korea, Bloomberg reported. Health Canada advised patients to continue taking the drugs they already possessed unless their doctor specifically told them to stop doing so. Meanwhile, an FDA inspector has found that at least one large manufacturer in India has a flawed process for controlling the impurities, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

Unlock the full version of this article by subscribing.

Log in | Learn More