Reform Needed of Orphan Drug Act

A recent commentary (A Sarpatwari et al NEJM 2019; 381: 106-8) details the need for reforming the Orphan Drug Act (passed in 1983).  To promote drugs for rare diseases, this act offered incentives including exclusive marketing rights for 7 years, a 50% tax credit for costs with clinical testing (reduced to 25% in 2017) and grants for clinical trials.

The problems that need to be addressed related to this act:

  • Soaring drug prices
  • “Slicing indications”

Key points:

  • “In 2017, the 100 best-selling rare-disease drugs had an estimated mean annual cost of more than $147,000 per patient, about $116,000 higher than that of the 100 best-selling drugs for other diseases.”  One of the most recent drugs for spinal muscular atrophy is priced at $2.1 million per patient.
  • 22% of these rare disease drugs have a non-rare disease indication (including Humira (adalimumab)).  This has led to concerns that manufacturers are slicing indications to secure the statutory benefits.
  • The authors argue that several of these favorable provisions need to be scaled back for blockbuster medications.

My take (borrowed from the authors): “The status quo increasingly threatens public health, as rising drug prices present growing access challenges for patients and indication slicing hampers collection of critical preapproval information on safety and efficacy when used in ways that will reflect their most common use in the market.”

Related blog posts:

Park Guell, Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona

Vedolizumab More Effective Than Adalimumab for Ulcerative Colitis

Gastroendonews: Tea Leaves No More: Biologics Head-to-Head Produces a Winner

An excerpt:

In the first head-to-head trial of biologic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, vedolizumab (Entyvio, Takeda) was nearly 50% more effective than adalimumab (Humira, AbbVie) in inducing clinical and mucosal remission in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis…

They enrolled 771 patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis in the VARSITY study and randomly assigned them to receive 52 weeks of treatment with either vedolizumab or adalimumab…

They had failed other conventional therapies, including 25% in each group that had received an anti–tumor necrosis factor (TNF) agent…

  • 31.3% of vedolizumab recipients and 22.5% of those taking adalimumab were in clinical remission after 52 weeks (P=0.0061). Clinical remission was defined as a complete Mayo score of 2 or lower and no subscore greater than 1
  • Nearly 40% of patients who received vedolizumab achieved mucosal healing at 52 weeks, compared with 27.7% of adalimumab recipients (P=0.0005).

My take: This study provides a rationale for vedolizumab to be used as a first-line biologic agent for ulcerative colitis.

Related posts:

FDA Approves Adalimumab Biosimilar -But Will Enter U.S. Market in 2023!

October 31, 2018: FDA Approves Sandoz’s Biosimilar Adalimumab, Hyrimoz

An excerpt:

The FDA has approved Sandoz’s biosimilar adalimumab, Hyrimoz (adalimumab-adaz). 

The drug has been approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, adult Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, and plaque psoriasis…

Despite today’s approval, US patients will have to continue to wait for access to Hyrimoz, as the biosimilar will not enter the US market until 2023. Earlier this month, Sandoz announced a global settlement of patent disputes with AbbVie over the drug. While the settlement allowed Sandoz to launch Hyrimoz in the European Union on October 16, 2018, it forestalled US market entry until September 30, 2023. 

My take: Why will this biosimilar be allowed in Europe but not U.$?

Related blog posts:

Zabriskie Point at Sunrise, Death Valley

Increasing Cost/Use of Biologic Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

As noted in a previous blog post (Changes in the Use of IBD Biologic Therapy), there has been an increased use of biologic therapy early in the course of patient’s with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Another retrospective study (H Yu et al AP&T 2018; 47: 364-70 -thanks to Ben Gold for this reference) examines the market share and costs of biologic therapy for IBD using the Truven Marketscan Commercial Claims and Encounters database (2007-2015).  This database consists of out-patient and in-patient pharmaceutical claims of approximately 40-50 million privately insured patients each year from patients from all 50 states (U.S.).

Key findings:

  • Among 415,405 patients with IBD (188,842 with Crohn’s, 195,183 with ulcerative colitis, 31,380 with indeterminate IBD), the proportion using biologics increased over the 9-year period (2007-2015); overall, the market share increase was from 7.1% (2007) to 20.5% (2015).
  • There were 28,797 pediatric patients with IBD (17,296 with Crohn’s, 9368 with ulcerative colitis, and 2133 with indeterminate colitis). The overall market share in pediatric patients was the highest, increasing from 19.1% to 45.9%.
  • For all patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) the proportion receiving biologic therapy increased from 21.8% to 43.8%.  For patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), the proportion increased from 5.1% to 16.2%.
  • Per-member per-year (PMPY) costs increased. “The average biologic-taking patient accounted for $25,275 PMPY in 2007 and $36,051 PMPY in 2015.”  This was similar in the pediatric population, going from $23,616 PMPY in 2007 to $41,109 PMPY in 2015.
  • The share of costs of medicines: the costs of biologics as a share of the total increased from 72.9% in 2007 to 85.7% in 2015. 95% of the pharmacy costs in children with IBD are attributed to biologics.

My take: This trend of increasing use of biologics and their associated costs is going to continue due to their effectiveness. While there are direct costs related to these medications, the net cost is unclear as they can prevent hospitalizations and surgeries. In addition, by helping to spare corticosteroids and increasing response rates, biologic therapies improve quality of life, minimize opportunity loss, and optimize long-term health outcomes.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

 

NY Times: Humira’s Best-Selling Drug Formula: Start at a High Price. Go Higher.

NY Times: Humira’s Best-Selling Drug Formula: Start at a High Price. Go Higher.

An excerpt:

Humira is the best-selling prescription drug in the world…The price of Humira, an anti-inflammatory drug dispensed in an injectable pen, has risen from about $19,000 a year in 2012, to more than $38,000 today, per patient, after rebates, according to SSR Health, a research firm. That’s an increase of 100 percent…

How much you actually pay out of pocket, and whether you can afford Humira at all, depend on your insurance and eligibility for discounts…

Humira, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of AbbVie’s $25.6 billion in revenue in 2016, was not simple to develop. It is among a new class of drugs known as biologics, which are made from living cells rather than synthetic chemicals…

Looking at the international picture tells its own story about drug costs. A prefilled carton with two syringes costs $2,669 in the United States, compared with $1,362 in Britain, $822 in Switzerland and $552 in South Africa…

An analysis by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review found that Humira’s list price would need to be discounted by at least 55 percent to be cost effective for rheumatoid arthritis, its originally approved use.

Dr. Steven D. Pearson, the founder of the institute, which provides cost benefit data to health plans, said competing drugs were overpriced as well.

“Even in a space like this, where there is a lot of competition, we don’t see the prices coming down,” he said. “That speaks to the fact that it doesn’t often function like a free market usually would.”..

AbbVie joined a few of its rivals in saying it would limit price increases to single digits this year, and so only raised Humira by another 9.7 percent this month, roughly four and a half times the inflation rate. For the drug industry, that counts as generosity.

My take: Humira is a very important and effective medication, particularly for inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. I infer from this article which compares the Humira pricing strategy to that used by Martin Shkreli that if U.S. consumers are to have more affordable pharmaceuticals, government intervention will be needed. AbbVie, like many other pharmaceutical companies, will continue to aggressively price Humira; after all, 8 billion in profits is not as good as 10 billion.

Related blog posts:

FDA approves Amjevita (Humira biosimilar)

On 9/23/16: FDA approved Amjevita (Humira biosimilar)

Excerpt:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) as a biosimilar to Humira (adalimumab) for multiple inflammatory diseases.

Amjevita is approved for the following indications in adult patients:

  • moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis;
  • active psoriatic arthritis;
  • active ankylosing spondylitis (an arthritis that affects the spine);
  • moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease;
  • moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis; and
  • moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.

…Amjevita is biosimilar to Humira. It has been approved as a biosimilar, not as an interchangeable product.

Fort Knox, Maine

Fort Knox, Maine

Bioequivalence of Biosimilars

From Annals of Internal Medicine: Bioequivalence of Biosimilar TNF-α Inhibitors

Ann Intern Med. Published online August 2016 doi:10.7326/M16-0428

Abstract:

Background: Biosimilars are of growing clinical, regulatory, and commercial importance.

Purpose: To summarize evidence about the bioequivalence between biosimilar and reference tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) inhibitors.

Data Sources: PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and LILACS from inception through 13 April 2016 and ClinicalTrials.gov, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, EU Clinical Trials Register, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and European Medicines Agency from inception through 30 April 2016.

Study Selection: Published English-language studies of any size or design that compared the pharmacokinetics, clinical efficacy, adverse events, or immunogenicity of a biosimilar TNF-α inhibitor with a reference biologic in humans.

Data Extraction: Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts, extracted data from selected studies, and assessed study quality.

Data Synthesis: Of 19 eligible studies, 8 were phase 1 randomized trials, 5 were phase 3 randomized trials, and 6 were observational studies. Most phase 1 trials (n = 7) involved healthy volunteers, phase 3 trials involved patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and observational studies involved those with rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. All phase 1 trials showed that pharmacokinetic parameters of the biosimilar and respective biologic were within the prespecified equivalence margin of 80% to 125%. Phase 3 trials suggested similar clinical responses and adverse events. Adverse events were usually of mild to moderate severity. Two cross-sectional observational studies showed cross-reactivity between products, whereas 4 cohort studies of patients switched from reference to biosimilar products suggested similar efficacy and safety outcomes.

Limitation: Possible publication bias, small sample sizes of many studies, and lack of published studies for several biosimilars.

Conclusion: Preliminary evidence supports the biosimilarity and interchangeability of biosimilar and reference TNF-α inhibitors.

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