Express Scripts Wants Early Discussions to Help Lower Treatment Costs

After their decision to include Abbvie's triple combination for hepatitis C on their formulary, over Gilead's more expensive regimens, Express Scripts indicated at the J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that they'll continue the stance of choosing treatments that are equally effective but save costs, especially in cancer.

Express Scripts, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit manager, on Tuesday said cost savings on expensive cancer treatments could be achieved if the company were involved earlier in the decision-making process.

Express Scripts, which has become more aggressive in negotiating discounts on drugs for insurance plans and employers, in December stopped covering Gilead Sciences Inc's hepatitis C treatments after lining up a cheaper price for AbbVie's newly-approved alternative.

Gilead's Sovaldi and follow-up combination pill Harvoni have been shown to cure hepatitis C in more than 90 percent of patients. But Express deemed the more than $90,000 price for 12 weeks of Harvoni treatment unaffordable.

The move reignited investor concerns that drugmakers will have to bow to pricing pressure from U.S. insurers and lawmakers over novel medications whose cost can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars for some diseases.

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