Leveraging clinical- and cost-effectiveness data to inform drug pricing and reimbursement
How the U.S. Institute for Clinical and Economic Review is reshaping market access
In the U.S., comparative clinical effectiveness analyses are gaining traction as ways to inform coverage, pricing, and reimbursement of pharmaceuticals by both public and commercial payers. And, while use of cost-effectiveness data to inform coverage decisions is prohibited in the public sector (Medicare and Medicaid) it can be used in the commercial sector.
A recently released Xcenda analysis shows that 70% of U.S. commercial payers identified comparative clinical- and cost-effectiveness evidence in the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s (ICER) published reviews as the most important items in the reports with respect to informing coverage and reimbursement decisions.
Additionally, 50% of payers said that long-term cost-effectiveness – for example, cost-per-Quality-Adjusted-Life-Year – is “very impactful” in informing the decision-making process. And, as the figure below shows, 52% used results from an ICER assessment in pricing negotiations while 38% implemented a prior authorization protocol based on an ICER evaluation.
Source: Xcenda, International Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) annual meeting presentation, May 2022
Further bolstering the Xcenda analysis, an Evidera study from late 2019 suggested that ICER can influence value-based benchmark prices. The use of value-based pricing is increasing in the U.S. And, where appropriate, ICER favors the use of value-based contracting to align price and value. In fact, in certain instances such as gene therapies, ICER believes that such treatments can only be viewed as being cost-effective if value-based contracting is applied. Partnering with Lyfegen may be the solution for manufacturers and payers alike, as its platform can put users on the right track towards successful implementation of value-based pricing arrangements.
To illustrate the impact ICER assessments can have with respect to pricing and reimbursement decisions, let’s consider ICER’s evaluation of PCSK9 inhibitors – indicated for individuals with inadequately treated levels of LDL-cholesterol. In 2016, two PCSK9 inhibitors were approved by the Food and Drug Administration: Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha). ICER reviewed the drugs’ clinical- and cost-effectiveness and suggested the list prices needed to be substantially reduced to make the treatments cost-effective.
What ensued was the establishment of several ICER-payer partnerships that led to formulary exclusions of these therapies and subsequent “price wars” as manufacturers of Praluent and Repatha drastically lowered their list prices to remain competitive.
Broadly, cardiovascular disease represents a competitive market with an established standard of care that includes numerous therapeutic options for most patients. Here, payers were able to leverage ICER’s assessment of the PCSK9 inhibitors in negotiations with drug manufacturers. In turn, this led, for example, to one manufacturer lowering the wholesale acquisition cost of Praluent to $5,850, down from $14,600.
In other therapeutic categories with much less competition, ICER’s impact is less clear-cut. For example, in a therapeutic area such as spinal muscular atrophy, characterized by low prevalence, high mortality rates, and lack of effective treatments, ICER’s cost-effectiveness analysis either did not influence payer coverage - as with the drug Spinraza (nusinersen) - or may have been leveraged by the manufacturer to push for wider acceptance among payers -as with Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec).
In 2019, ICER published its final recommendations on spinal muscular atrophy therapies. To meet an ICER-imposed cost-effectiveness threshold of up to $150,000 per life year gained, Spinraza would need to be priced at a maximum of $145,000 for the first year of treatment and $72,000 annually for subsequent years. This was considerably lower than Spinraza’s list price of $750,000 for the first year and $375,000 annually for subsequent years. ICER also recommended that Zolgensma could be priced at up to $2.1 million per treatment to be considered cost-effective, which turned out to be in line with its list price of $2.125 million at launch.
Interestingly, although ICER’s analysis found that Zolgensma was cost-effective while Spinraza was not, payer coverage for both drugs followed a similar trend over time, with payers restricting access in the initial periods immediately after launch and later relaxing these criteria.
The shift in coverage criteria could be due to an initial reflex response that payers have to restrict access to extremely expensive medications, followed by a loosening of criteria. Historically, this has been the case. Subsequently, after acknowledging the dramatic clinical benefits that Spinraza and Zolgensma have demonstrated in clinical trials for treating a disease with no other therapeutic options, payers relent, if you will. Also, in the case of Zolgensma, ICER’s evaluation may have led to a further easing of payer restrictions.
Of course, cost-effectiveness analyses, such as the ones published by ICER, must invariably be adapted for local use. Context matters, nationally, but also intra-nationally, in different jurisdictions and sub-markets. Further challenges include local or federal (national) regulations which may prevent the use of cost-effectiveness analyses under certain circumstances; stakeholders’ resistance to adopting such analyses or be bound by their findings; and the general lack of available (and appropriate) cost-effectiveness data.
Nevertheless, there is a consistent trend which points to the growing influence of ICER evaluations on payer decision making, specifically with respect to drug pricing and reimbursement. Clinical- and cost-effectiveness data can be used to determine whether to cover a technology, inform the use of prior authorization or other conditions of reimbursement, and serve as a benchmark for price negotiations with manufacturers.
About the author
Cohen is a health economist with more than 25 years of experience analyzing, publishing, and presenting on drug and diagnostic pricing and reimbursement, as well as healthcare policy reform initiatives. For 21 years, Cohen was an academic at Tufts University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Amsterdam. Currently, and for the past five years, Cohen is an independent healthcare analyst n a variety of research, teaching, speaking, editing, and writing projects.