Express Scripts sheds light on 2015 public exchange pharmacy trends
ST. LOUIS — New exchange plan enrollees spent less on medications in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same time a year ago, according to the third edition of the Express Scripts Exchange Pulse report released on Wednesday.
When compared with the first quarter of 2014, the number of new exchange plan enrollees who used at least one prescription medication declined 18% in the first quarter of 2015. However, when evaluating exchange plan medication trends between March 31, 2014 and March 31, 2015, researchers found that spending on high-cost specialty medications grew 24% — compared with 8% growth in traditional health plans — largely attributable to hepatitis C medications, the third costliest therapy class among exchange plans.
"While it is encouraging to see data that suggests healthier Americans are enrolling in exchange plans, the research reminds us that many of these patients use this benefit to manage serious, chronic illnesses," stated Julie Huppert, VP, healthcare reform at Express Scripts. "Exchange plans have an opportunity to make medications more affordable and accessible by more closely managing the benefit, encouraging the use of home delivery pharmacy and other proven clinical pharmacy programs, which can help boost medication adherence and foster better disease management."
The Express Scripts Exchange Pulse report compares prescription medication use among exchange plan enrollees to those who are enrolled in a traditional health plan benefit. The analysis examined medication trends from January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, and also compared trends in the first quarter of 2015 to those seen in the first quarter of 2014. The analysis is based on more than 100 million de-identified pharmacy claims administered by Express Scripts during these periods.
New Trends Emerge in 2015
In addition to reduced medication use, new exchange enrollees in the first quarter of 2015 were younger and healthier with 34% fewer adjusted specialty pharmacy claims than enrollees in the year-ago period. This resulted in first quarter exchange enrollees spending 21% less out-of-pocket overall on medications, and 20% less out-of-pocket on specialty medications compared with the year-ago period. In addition, exchange plan costs were 36% lower per member per month in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the first quarter of 2014.
Additional key trends include:
• Spending on hepatitis C medication increased 96% compared with the year-ago period;
• Oral contraceptive use increased 29%, likely due to the younger average age of exchange enrollees in Q1 2015; and
• While still the most common specialty condition, particularly among enrollees aged 18 to 64, HIV prevalence declined 11% compared with the year-ago period.
"While high-cost specialty medication use in exchange plans grew significantly throughout 2014, we may be seeing the start of a new chapter with this program, where healthier Americans who use fewer prescription medications are engaging with these plans," added Huppert. "If these trends continue, plans can achieve a more balanced risk pool, which will help them sustain benefit offerings in the future."
Specialty Medication Spend is Significant
Data from the 15-month analysis shows specialty medications accounted for 42% of all pharmacy spending among exchange plans. Nearly 53% of exchange plan specialty pharmacy claims were for HIV, compared with 20% for traditional health plans. In addition, exchange plan costs were 16% higher per member per month compared with traditional health plans, largely because of an increased specialty drug spending among exchange plan enrollees.
High-cost hepatitis C drugs Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) and Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) were the two most expensive specialty drugs for exchange plan members. Harvoni, which came to market in October 2014, represented 6.4% of the total pharmacy spend among exchange plans.
Exchange Plans are Paying the Majority of Costs for Patients in High-Cost Populations
There were a higher proportion of patients with high annual medication costs in exchange plans. In 2014, 5% of exchange plan patients accounted for more than 68% of total prescription drug spending. In addition, the proportion of exchange plan patients with 2014 annual medication costs exceeding $50,000 was nearly two times more than commercially insured patients, and more than three times more than Medicaid patients.
Exchange plan patients with more than $50,000 in 2014 annual medications costs paid 2.2% of the costs of their medications out-of-pocket in 2014, and exchange plan patients with annual medications costs at or exceeding $100,000 in 2014 paid 1.7% of their total costs out-of-pocket. Their plans covered the remainder of the costs.
Medication Non-Adherence a Concern for Exchanges
Medication non-adherence affects both exchange and traditional health plan patients; however, early data suggest that across most traditional and specialty therapy classes, medication non-adherence was higher in exchange plans compared to traditional health plans:
• Medication non-adherence was high in four of the top 10 costliest conditions for exchange plans: diabetes, high blood pressure, hepatitis C and HIV;
• 34% of exchange plan patients with high blood pressure — the most prevalent traditional condition on the exchanges — were non-adherent to medication therapy, compared with 29% among traditional health plan patients; and
• 27% of exchange plan patients treated for HIV — the most prevalent specialty condition among exchange plans — were non-adherent to medication therapy, compared with 25% of health plan patients.
Study: Med sync programs a ‘win-win-win’
ALEXANDRIA, Va. —The adoption of technology-driven medication synchronization by community pharmacies results in improved patient adherence, increased revenue streams, and overall improvement in business optimization for pharmacies. That’s according to an analysis of five pharmacy case studies conducted for the National Community Pharmacists Association.
In two NCPA studies, pharmacies used Ateb’s Time My Meds to identify patients for enrollment and to manage the daily operations of medication synchronization. An analysis of the data collected from these studies revealed the following results for patients enrolled in medication synchronization:
• Pharmacies achieved a nearly 91% proportion of days covered score for medications of patients enrolled in the program. This compares with a PDC score of 72% for patients assigned to a control group.
• Average days on therapy, a measure of medication persistence, was significantly higher in the intervention group, averaging approximately 20 additional fills per patient per year.
• Patient disenrollment from the program resulted in recidivism, yielding a 63-day reduction in average days on therapy.
• Use of automation yielded a 35% higher enrollment rate than manual medication synchronization programs.
In addition to the tangible patient care benefits, the case study analysis and pharmacy owner interviews, which were conducted by David Holdford of Virginia Commonwealth University, showed that, by using the automated medication synchronization solution, pharmacies were able to:
• Increase prescription sales;
• Enhance the efficiency of pharmacy workflow and operations;
• Achieve smarter purchasing and better timing of deliveries; and
• Improve patient satisfaction.
“We received compelling evidence from these studies that a personalized, automated medication synchronization service delivered by community pharmacies is impactful, scalable, and able to be replicated in any community pharmacy,” stated NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey. “The results also confirmed community pharmacists are ideally positioned to counsel patients and ensure they take medications as prescribed and understand their importance to better health. With the increased focus on measuring the quality of health care through initiatives like the Medicare Star Ratings, medication synchronization offers an excellent opportunity for pharmacies to achieve higher adherence scores.”
“These studies demonstrate the tremendous impact that community pharmacies can have on improving patient adherence and healthier outcomes,” added Frank Sheppard, president and CEO of Ateb. “We are proud to work with NCPA to measurably demonstrate the effectiveness of medication synchronization. Studies like these prove how valuable community pharmacies are in addressing many of the critical issues in health care today.”
Estimates indicate that more than 10,000 community pharmacies are providing medication synchronization services, including NCPA’s Simplify My Meds program, which is utilized by more than 2,400 independent community pharmacies nationwide.
California Gov. signs mandatory vaccination bill
LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Tuesday a bill that would require more children who enter day care or school to be vaccinated.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote in a statement to members of the California State Senate. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunizations powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
The bill ends exemptions from state immunization laws based on religious or other personal beliefs. However, while requiring that school children be vaccinated, the bill does provide an exception when a physician confirms that a child has a medical condition that would warrant such an exception.
According to reports, the bill was introduced due to concern about low vaccination rates in some communities and following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that infected more than 150 people.