Weekend Update

Happy Martin Luther King Day Weekend! Congress is taking a holiday today but it will be back in session tomorrow to hear the State of the Union address. The Week in Congress reviews last week’s legislative actions up on the Hill.  Govexec.com updates us on the status of postal service reform in the new Congress.

The FEHBlog has written quite a bit about expensive Hepatitis C drugs.  Last month the Food and Drug Administration approved an Abbvie drug to compete with Gilead’s drugs thereby breaking Gilead’s monopoly. Express Scripts quickly announced an agreement with Abbvie and CVS struck a deal with Gilead. Barron’s reports that several large insurers, Anthem, Aetna, and Humana, have followed CVS’s lead which make sense because at this point Gilead’s drugs have a broader scope of treatment. The good thing is that thanks to Abbvie and Express Scripts, Gilead finally has agreed to price discounts in the U.S.  The latest Gilead drug, Harvoni, is priced at $94,000 per treatment. The timing is perfect too because as of January 1, 2015, FEHB plans and other health plans generally must cover Hepatitis C testing in network without enrollee cost sharing. A cure for Hepatitis C is a tremendous advance in health care, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

In the same vein, the Washington Post reported in depth yesterday about ongoing efforts to bring less expensive biogeneric or biosimilar drugs to market. It will be several years before these Hepatitis C drug patents expire thereby opening the door to biosimilars. Nevertheless there are many biologic drugs that are eligible for biogeneric treatment (the EU has been approving biogenerics for over a decade). The FDA needs a biosimilarity protocol so pharmacists routinely can switch brand name biologics to biogenerics.