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CVS Health PBM clients achieve lowest drug trend in four years

BY Brian Berk

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health’s pharmacy benefits management clients achieved the lowest drug trend in the past four years, despite rising drug prices. CVS Caremark clients saw their prescription drug trend drop to an average of 3.2% compared to 5.0% in 2015, according to the company. In addition, 38% of CVS Caremark commercial clients achieved a negative trend, which means they actually spent less on their prescription benefit in 2016 than they did in 2015, despite rising drug prices. Out-of-pocket costs for members also dropped 3.0% compared to the previous year.

"No one is more concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs than CVS Health," said Troyen Brennan, M.D., EVP and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. "Our very favorable drug trend results for 2016 demonstrate that we have been able to deliver best-in-class value to clients and their members."

Unmanaged drug trend for 2016 was 11.0%, driven primarily by price inflation for branded specialty and traditional drugs, as well as increased utilization due to an aging population. CVS Caremark was able to reduce trend for clients by 7.8 percentage points to 3.2% through PBM management solutions that include price protection and the negotiation of rebates, of which more than 90 percent are passed back to clients. CVS Caremark also encouraged the use of less expensive generic drugs through managed formularies and applied targeted approaches to addressing high-spend drivers such as hyper-inflating drugs. On average, clients who selected the CVS Caremark standard managed formulary achieved a trend of 2.2%, which was less than half the trend of 4.5% for clients who used a custom formulary and opted out of drug removals. Additionally, clients who chose our generic-focused value formulary had the highest generic dispensing rate at 88.2% and the lowest baseline cost at $81.86 per member per month.

Although overall drug price inflation was lower in 2016, it still accounted for almost 80% of the unmanaged trend, stated CVS. The relative impact of inflation on specialty branded products continued to increase relative to traditional branded medications. At the same time, overall specialty products grew to nearly 36% of overall gross spend. Three of the top five categories contributing to gross trend were specialty drug categories, including anti-inflammatory medications for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis; antineoplastics and adjunctive therapies used to treat cancer; and psychotherapeutic and neurological agents, including multiple sclerosis therapies. Meanwhile, generic utilization growth kept costs low for members as well as clients and drove a 3.5 point overall cost reduction for clients.

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CVS’ Denton: We have a ‘lot of tools in our tool chest to differentiate ourselves’

BY Brian Berk

MIAMI — CVS Health’s integrated pharmacy model arms the retailer with “a lot of tools in our tool chest to differentiate ourselves” from the competition, David Denton, EVP and chief financial officer, stated Wednesday during the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference at the Lowes Miami Beach Hotel here.

One “tool” delivering excellent growth is CVS Specialty Connect, he said. CVS Health’s Specialty Connect is a specialty prescription services program offers patients choice and flexibility in how they access their specialty medications, while providing centralized, expert clinical support. Patients have the option to bring their specialty prescriptions to any CVS Pharmacy. After dropping off their prescription at the pharmacy, patients receive insurance guidance and dedicated clinical support by phone from a team of specialty pharmacy experts, trained in each therapeutic area, who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Once the prescription is ready, the program also makes it easy for patients to receive their specialty drugs. Patients can choose between in-store pickup at any of the many CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, or they can receive their medications by mail.

“We’ve seen great share gain [with Specialty Connect],” Denton remarked during the event.

Denton also cited MinuteClinic, the retail medical clinic of CVS Health, as another tool showing excellent growth that is differentiating itself from competitors.

Other notes from Denton during the question-and-answer format included:

  • Regarding changes in the pharmacy benefit manager portion of the business, the market has changed dramatically during the past five years as $100 million worth of products has lost patent protection in this time.
  • CVS has experienced operational success regarding Medicare Part D. “Our platform is extremely stable,” said Denton. He added that adherence is very important in this space.
  • Likewise, the retailer has also enjoyed managed care plan success regarding Medicare Plan B.

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Bloomberg: Walgreens could sell additional assets to Fred’s

BY Brian Berk

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance could be close to an agreement to sell more assets, including additional stores, distribution centers, software and personnel, to Fred’s Pharmacy in an effort to win Federal Trade Commission approval of its proposed agreement to acquire Rite Aid, according to Bloomberg, citing sources close to the talks.

“Walgreens could present the beefed-up package to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission within weeks, the [Bloomberg source] said, in hopes of satisfying the agency’s concerns after an initial proposal fell short,” the news outlet reported. It added that in addition to the FTC, at least a dozen states attorneys general had “scrutinized the deal.”

As part of the sweetened deal, Fred’s would also get the rights to the Rite Aid brand name for an extended period beyond the 24-month period outlined in the original deal, Bloomberg added in its report. “Senior Rite Aid executives could also move over to Fred’s, although exactly who and how many is still under discussion, according to the [source].”

Drug Store News reported one week ago that Walgreens was perhaps considering declaring it has “certified compliance” in its Rite Aid merger, forcing the FTC to vote on the proposed transaction in 30 days.

The proposed Walgreens-Rite Aid transaction was first proposed in Oct. 2015. Fred’s was already set to acquire at least 865 divested Rite Aid locations.

Wall Street reacted positively to this news, lifting the stocks of Fred’s and Rite Aid each by more than 2 percent during Tuesday afternoon trading. 

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