PHARMACY

Express Scripts reports record lows in prescription trends

BY Alaric DeArment

ST. LOUIS One of the country’s largest pharmacy benefit managers said Monday that prescription drug cost trends decreased to record lows last year.

Data from Express Scripts indicated that the trend resulted from greater use of generic drugs and low-cost branded drugs, the PBM said. The overall pharmacy cost trend for clients of the company was 3% for 2008, down from 5.5% the year before.

The company calculated the data by evaluating total prescription costs for traditional and specialty drugs, including patient copays and payments by plan sponsors such as health plans and employers.

“Using generic drugs that are safe and effective can help lower costs while still driving value for patients and employers,” stated Steven Miller, Express Scripts chief medical officer and SVP . “Our results indicate that cost control is achievable through careful management of appropriate use of drugs and delivery channels, without shifting costs to consumers.”

The company said that additional opportunities for savings remain. Consumers wasted an estimated $42 billion in 2008 by not finding appropriate, lower-cost alternatives to expensive branded drugs. The researchers based the estimate on potential savings for the total U.S. population in 13 drug-therapy classes, using a sample size of 3 million people.

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Vertex reports Q1 earnings

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Vertex Pharmaceuticals ended first quarter 2009 with $869 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, the company announced Thursday.

The company is conducting a phase 3 study of telaprevir, a protease inhibitor for treating hepatitis C in patients who have not received treatment or for whom other treatments have failed. In March, Vertex started a phase 2a trial of VX-809, a compound designed to treat cystic fibrosis, and it also plans to start trials for the investigational CF drug VX-770 in the United States and Europe.

“With our strong performance in the first quarter, we are well-positioned to drive forward key programs in hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis and to deliver on our 2009 financial projections outlined earlier this year,” Vertex president Matt Emmens said. “Our top priority is to execute on the telaprevir phase 3 program and to prepare for [a new drug application] filing for telaprevir in the second half of 2010.”

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Drug maker’s shares fall after HHS requests regulatory filing

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A Department of Health and Human Services request that companies bidding on a government contract to provide anthrax vaccines give a regulatory plan to the Food and Drug Administration in 15 days caused shares of one of the companies to fall by 5.5% in afternoon trading on Friday, according to published reports.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that PharmAthene submitted a regulatory filing saying that HHS did not provide sufficient information. The HHS request caused PharmAthene’s shares to fall by 15 cents, to $2.56.

The Annapolis, Md.-based company makes the anthrax vaccine SparVax.

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