Express Scripts may switch hepatitis C drugs on preferred formulary

December 2, 2014

While pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie’s new hepatitis C drug has not yet been approved by FDA, pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts has expressed interest in switching to the drug in its preferred drug formulary.

While pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie’s new hepatitis C drug has not yet been approved by FDA, pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts has expressed interest in switching to the drug in its preferred drug formulary.

AbbVie’s drug-expected to receive FDA approval this month-combines 3 drugs into 1 pill, and may be more cost effective than hepatitis C medications already on the market, Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, told analysts on a conference call recently.

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Gilead Science's Sovaldi costs an estimated $84,000, or $1,000 per pill, and the company’s Harvoni is priced at $94,500, according to Reuters. “As we have stated in the past, the current pricing for Sovaldi and Harvoni is unsustainable in the U.S. As new drugs come to market in the coming months, we plan to use that additional competition to drive down costs for both payers and patients,” David Whitrap, director of corporate communications for Express Scripts, told FormularyWatch.

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Miller said Sovaldi's high cost is particularly hitting patients in state prisons and those on Medicaid hard, because the populations have high rates of infection with the hepatitis C virus, Reuters reported.

However, Express Scripts “won’t be making a formulary decision until AbbVie’s drug is approved by the FDA and our external Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee has had an opportunity to compare the new drug’s clinical profile to the profiles of the other products currently in that class [eg, Sovaldi, Harvoni, Olysio],” Whitrap said. “We anticipate that the FDA decision will occur later this month.”

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In addition, Express Scripts will only exclude a medication from its National Preferred Formulary if there are clinically equivalent alternatives on its formulary, and “only then if the exclusion delivers significant cost savings for our clients and members,” Whitrap said.

Meanwhile, an AbbVie spokesperson told Reuters that no price has been disclosed for the unnamed hepatitis C drug.