Tuesday’s Tidbits

OPM has launched its 2010 Federal Benefits Open Season website. The Open Season begins next Monday November 8.

Modern Healthcare reports that the journal Health Affairs in its November issue addresses the topic of value based insurance design — “the strategy of lowering copayments for services relative to their costs.”  

At a briefing about the articles, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, referred to the articles as “very, very thoughtful papers” and talked about the importance of aligning incentives with medication adherence. Ignagni also said more information is needed about comparative-effectiveness research with regard to drugs and procedures; that cost should be a consideration; and that groups should work collaboratively in this effort.

The Health Affairs blog provides a helpful summary of these articles.

The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog points out that the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is holding today and tomorrow a public hearing on biosimilar drugs. According to the FDA’s website, the hearing’s purpose is to obtain public input on “issues and challenges associated with the implementation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCI Act). The BPCI Act establishes an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are demonstrated to be “highly similar” (biosimilar) to, or “interchangeable” with, an FDA-licensed biological product.”  Generic drugs are the small molecule drug analog to biosimilars. (Small molecule drugs are the pills in your medicine cabinet while biologic drugs are typically administered at a facility or doctor’s office.) The WSJ Health Blog concludes with the observation that  “Biosimilars have waited a long time to make their debut in this country.  If the disagreement between the pro and con speakers at the 2-day FDA event is any indication, biogenerics have some more time to get ready for their close-up.” That’s not good news for those interested in lowering health care costs.

Business Insurance reports on prescription benefit manager Medco Health System’s latest earnings report. “Medco CEO David Snow said [traditional, small molecule] generics would contribute to profits consistently through 2020, perhaps surprising some investors who thought the generic benefits would die down around 2015.”