CVS Health bars Valeant, Concordia drugs for 'egregious' price hikes, and it's on the lookout for more

Note to price-hiking drugmakers: CVS Health is targeting you.

The pharmacy benefits manager slapped aside 35 more drugs in its aggressive 2017 formulary, bringing its list of barred meds to 131. Almost one-third of those additions are meds whose prices went up dramatically in recent months.

And CVS Health ($CVS) isn’t stopping with those deletions. It plans to revisit its coverage list quarterly, on a sharp lookout for meds “with egregious cost inflation.” If those drugs with big price hikes have effective, appropriate and less costly alternatives, they’ll be cut off.

The 10 “hyperinflationary drugs” knocked off the formulary this time include products from serial price-hike offender Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) and its fellow Canadian drugmaker, Concordia Healthcare ($CXRX), which has also come under fire for large price hikes.

“CVS Health is taking a stand against egregious drug price increases that unnecessarily add costs for clients and their members,” the PBM said.

CVS targeted drugs whose prices had increased by more than 200% over three years, EVP Jonathan Roberts said during the company’s Q2 earnings call with analysts.

CVS pushed off Valeant’s Zegerid, a heartburn drug acquired along with Salix Pharmaceuticals, and DexPak, which is the steroid drug dexamethasone in taper-off dosage packaging. Zegerid combines the generic ingredient omeprazole with sodium bicarbonate--otherwise known as baking soda--and dexamethasone is available as a generic.

Concordia saw two drugs nixed from the CVS list: Its Nilandron treatment for prostate cancer, which it acquired in its $3.5 billion deal for Amdipharm Mercury last year; and Dutoprol, a combination med for high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, Novum Pharma had three drugs kicked off the formulary, including Alcortin External Gel, a dermatology drug that CVS called out specifically in its announcement. The price of that treatment went up by more than 2,800% over the past three years, CVS said. That’s an increase of almost thirty-fold.

The two other Novum drugs considered “hyperinflationary” were Novacort, which treats infectious dermatoses; and Aloquin, another infectious dermatoses treatment that Novum is promoting with a “$0 copay” assistance program.

CVS took a range of other steps that one analyst called “audacious.” It kicked off branded meds to replace them with their biosimilars--namely Amgen’s ($AMGN) Neupogen, which lost out to Novartis’ ($NVS) Zarxio biosim, and Sanofi’s ($SNY) Lantus, which will be replaced by the Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Boehringer Ingelheim knockoff set to launch in the U.S. in December.

It also nixed a couple of blockbuster cancer drugs--Novartis’ Tasigna, a follow-up to the Swiss drugmaker’s Gleevec, which faces some limited generic competition; and Medivation’s ($MDVN) Xtandi, with no such equivalent. And it edged off two rare disease drugs, including Actelion’s Opsumit, the intended follow-up to that company’s pulmonary arterial hypertension remedy Tracleer.

- see the CVS Health exclusions

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