Sector News

Sun Pharma, Novartis co-opt the copay offer to promote knockoffs of pricey brands

August 11, 2016
Life sciences

Copay discount programs stir up some strong feelings in the pharma world. They’ve been accused of driving up healthcare costs by increasing branded drug scripts when cheaper alternatives are available.

Payers have thrown drugs off their formularies for that very reason. Drugmakers love them, because they help create brand loyalty and lower out-of-pocket hurdles for patients.

But a new trend could change that calculus: copay discounts for generic drugs and biosimilars.

Sun Pharmaceuticals is using copay assistance to promote its copy of Novartis’ big-selling, expensive cancer drug Gleevec. When the generic, imatinib mesylate, rolled out in February, Sun offered $700 in upfront out-of-pocket assistance, reducing the monthly copay to as little as $10.

After 6 months, more than 5,000 patients had used the program, which cut their out-of-pocket costs by 50% to 60%, Sun says. Those incentives were set to expire, but earlier this week, the Indian drugmaker extended the offer.

Meanwhile, Novartis’ Sandoz unit has its own copay program for patients using Zarxio, its biosimilar version of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastrim). The Sandoz One Source copay program covers upfront costs for patients, which means their first dose or cycle comes free of out-of-pocket expenses.

Patients then pay $10 for each monthly dose or cycle, for up to 12 months. The assistance program is limited to $10,000.

Contrary to copay help on branded drugs, these programs actually steer patients toward lower-cost therapies. The price difference between biologics and their biosimilars is much smaller, of course, than the gap between brands and traditional generics. But even so, payers have been anticipating savings on biosimilars for some time, and they’re likely to welcome this new variety of copay program.

The 2017 formulary released by CVS Health last week shows just how much the pharmacy benefits manager hopes to rely on Sun’s Gleevec copy and biosimilar meds. CVS removed not only Gleevec but also Novartis’ follow-up med, Tasigna, from its preferred formulary.

CVS also removed Amgen’s Neupogen from its list in favor of Zarxio, and it excluded Sanofi’s Lantus, preferring to cover Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s biosimilar, Basaglar, instead. The latter med is expected to launch in December.

By Tracy Staton

Source: Fierce Pharma

comments closed

Related News

May 15, 2022

Novo Nordisk and Flagship Pioneering announce a strategic collaboration to create a portfolio of transformational medicines

Life sciences

The companies will explore opportunities to apply Flagship’s innovative bioplatforms – an ecosystem that currently comprises 41 companies – to scientific challenges in disease areas within cardiometabolic and rare diseases and initiate research programmes based on these.

May 15, 2022

BD, Babson set sights on bringing simple blood collection into the home

Life sciences

BD is expanding its long-running partnership with the blood collection company Babson Diagnostics. The two companies have been working together since 2019 on a device that can gather small volumes of blood from the capillaries in the fingertip without requiring any specialized training, and beginning with a focus on supporting primary care in retail settings.

May 15, 2022

CSL’s $11.7B Vifor buy, 2021’s biggest biopharma M&A deal, hits antitrust delay

Life sciences

Wednesday, Australian biotech CSL said (PDF) the regulatory review of its $11.7 billion acquisition of Switzerland’s Vifor Pharma will take “a few more months,” suggesting it won’t be able to close the transaction by June 2022 as previously expected.