By Angela Maas

With the first therapy north of $1 million gaining FDA approval last month, payers likely will implement a variety of strategies to manage Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi), a one-time gene therapy from AveXis, Inc., a Novartis company. For now, many uncertainties exist with respect to the new treatment and what its place will be in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) care.

According to Lee Newcomer, M.D., principal at Lee N. Newcomer Consulting LLC, payers likely will implement “strict enforcement of the label restrictions, advisory panels to develop clinical criteria for therapy [and] highly specific provider networks to ensure that the therapies are given correctly.”

When it comes to payer strategies, “unlike other conditions, where there might be alternatives that warrant prior authorization or step therapy, here I expect there to be limited management and more care coordination,” Alex Shekhdar, founder of Sycamore Creek Healthcare Advisors, tells AIS Health.

“If I were a payer, I would definitely use prior-authorization for this, but given the nature of the therapy, you can’t use step edits — it doesn’t really make sense clinically,” says an industry expert who declines to be identified. “But prior authorization really needs to occur extremely quickly.”

“Plans will likely implement a medical policy to ensure appropriate use and ensure adequate monitoring,” says April M. Kunze, Pharm.D., senior director, clinical formulary development and trend management strategy at Prime Therapeutics LLC. “This is a one-time IV infusion; any repeated administration has not been evaluated and will likely not be covered until there is data to support that use.”

One concern among some payers is whether members will attempt to be treated with both Zolgensma and Spinraza (nusinersen), another expensive therapy for SMA. “It’s not clear yet if the combination or the sequence is better care until further studies are completed,” says Newcomer.