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This Week in Managed Care: February 2, 2018


This week, the top managed care news included President Donald Trump vowing to lower drug prices during his State of the Union address; 3 corporate giants joined forces on healthcare; and CAR T-cell therapy was named the cancer advance of the year.

President Trump vows to lower drug prices, three corporate giants join forces on healthcare, and CAR T-cell therapy is named the advance of the year.

Welcome to This Week in Managed Care, I’m Laura Joszt.

State of the Union Address

In his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump returned to a theme of his 2016 campaign: taking on high drug prices. A day prior, Trump said his new HHS Secretary, former Eli Lilly president Alex Azar, would know how to drive down prices. Said Trump:

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.”

However, critics say Trump has little to combat drug prices despite his campaign rhetoric. He called on Congress to pass Right-to-Try legislation, which would not affect patients impacted by the cost of drugs for chronic conditions.

For more, visit ajmc.com.

CDC Director Resigns

The morning after the State of the Union address, HHS announced that CDC Director Dr Brenda Fitzgerald had resigned amid reports that she had traded in tobacco stocks while heading the agency. The resignation leaves the CDC without a leader in the middle of a severe flu crisis that has gripped most of the country.

Three Companies Join Forces on Healthcare

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase announced this week they will form an independent company to take on the problem of rising healthcare costs. There were few details, except that the venture will be free from profit-making incentives and will focus on technology solutions.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has called rising healthcare costs a “hungry tapeworm on the American economy” and even suggested a single-payer system might be the answer.

The group knows it’s taking on a big challenge, according to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who said: “The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty.”

Niall Brennan, president of the Health Care Cost Institute, said it remains to be seen why this employer alliance will be different from others. “People are placing an extraordinary amount of confidence and hope in the ability of Amazon to disrupt healthcare in the way that they have disrupted other businesses. I want nothing more for them to crack this nut and actually get a grip on US healthcare spending, but I’ll need to see more details.”

Outcomes-Based Agreement for Jardiance

Prime Therapeutics and Boehringer Engelheim have reached an outcomes-based contract for empagliflozin, sold as Jardiance. The SGLT2 inhibitor for type 2 diabetes now has an indication to prevent cardiovascular deaths.

Empagliflozin was the first diabetes therapy to get this indication from FDA, although its competitor, canagliflozin, sold as Invokana, is seeking a similar indication after findings showed cardiovascular benefits.

According to Prime Therapeutics’ Jonathan Gavras, MD, the agreement would help Primes’ members, who belong to Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

He said, “Because diabetes affects nearly 10% of the US population, Prime actively works to find solutions that can improve our members’ health outcome and control the overall costs of diabetes.”

Cancer Advance of the Year

CAR T-cell therapy has been named the “Advance of the Year” by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

ASCO’s announcement came in the report, Clinical Cancer Advances 2018, which features the impactful research and policy achievements of the past year. The report said CAR T-cell therapy is “poised to transform the outlook for children and adults with certain otherwise incurable cancers.”

ASCO President Bruce Johnson, MD, FASCO, said, “While we still have work to do to make these treatments accessible to patients everywhere and more tolerable, the successes of CAR T-cell therapy demonstrate the profound impact new treatments could make to markedly extend the lives of people with cancer.”

FDA has approved 2 CAR T-cell therapies: Kymriah for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in certain pediatric and young adult patients, and Yescarta for adults with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma who have not responded or have relapsed after 2 other treatments.

ASH Recap Issue

CAR T-cell therapy took center stage at December’s meeting of the American Society of Hematology. If you could not attend the meeting, catch our special issue of Evidence-Based Oncology™, which features meeting highlights, including a special section on biosimilars.

The full issue is available at ajmc.com

For all of us at The American Journal of Managed Care, I’m Laura Joszt. Thanks for joining us.

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