Pharmacy Briefing: June 2021

Pharmacy Briefing is a monthly summary of select U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals and launches, treatment guidelines and research updates, and other newsworthy events that have the potential to impact commercial drug utilization or costs.


  • Aduhelm (aducanumab) is approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease
  • Wegovy (semaglutide) is approved as a weight-loss agent in patients with or without diabetes
  • Milliman publishes 2021 Milliman Medical Index (MMI)
  • Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) analysis estimates Aduhelm (aducanumab) cost-effectiveness range between $2,500 to $8,300 per year

FDA Approvals and Launches

  • Aduhelm (aducanumab) is approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
    • The drug was approved despite overwhelmingly negative feedback from an FDA advisory committee.
  • Wegovy (semaglutide) is approved as a weight-loss agent in patients with or without diabetes.
  • Farxiga (dapagliflozin) receives additional indication to treat chronic kidney disease in patients with or without diabetes.
  • Zeposia (ozanimod), an oral drug approved for multiple sclerosis, receives additional approval to treat ulcerative colitis.
  • Brexafemme (ibrexafungerp) is approved to treat vaginal yeast infections.


Milliman publishes 2021 Milliman Medical Index (MMI)

  • For the first time since the MMI has been published, overall healthcare costs decreased year over year, in part due to deferrals and elimination of care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
    • This decrease was reflected in all service categories with the exception of pharmacy.

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ICER analysis estimates Aduhelm (aducanumab) cost-effectiveness range between $2,500 to $8,300 per year

  • The cost-effectiveness estimate accounted for mixed results gathered from two phase 3 clinical trials.
  • Biogen has set a list price of $56,000 per year of treatment for the newly approved Alzheimer’s drug. 

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ICER analysis evaluates cost effectiveness of several atopic dermatitis treatments

  • Olumiant (baricitinib) was found to the be the most cost-effective of the evaluated treatments when compared to topical treatments as standard of care.
  • Compared to Dupixent (dupilumab), investigational drug abrocitinib and currently available Rinvoq (updacitinib) did not meet commonly cited cost-effectiveness thresholds.

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OptumRx pipeline report highlights five notable drugs with expected approval in 2021

  • The report highlights Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm (aducanumab), FDA approved on June 7th, and oral atopic dermatitis drug abrocitinib, among others.
  •  The report also discusses the potential growth of the atopic dermatitis market as an upcoming industry trend.

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House of Representatives publishes Drug Pricing Investigation report on Humira (adalimumab) and Imbruvica (ibrutinib)

  • The House’s committee on Oversight and Reform describes “uninhibited price increases” and abuses of the patent system, the Orphan Drug Act, and shadow pricing with Enbrel (etanercept).

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AllianceRx Walgreen Prime pilot program targets social determinants of health for members with multiple sclerosis

  • The program will enroll members being treated for multiple sclerosis through the AllianceRx Walgreens Prime specialty pharmacy.
  • Eligible members will be offered social work, behavioral health, and other appropriate resources that may help them address issues that are indirectly affecting their medical treatment.

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Prime Therapeutics observes significant increase in practice guideline adherence through prescriber outreach program

  • Statin drugs are used to control cholesterol and improve cardiovascular outcomes; practice guidelines recommend their use in most adults with diabetes.
  • The program identified members with diabetes without claims for a statin drug and sent direct communication to these members’ healthcare providers.

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CVS Health publishes white paper discussing pharmacogenomics

  • Pharmacogenomics involves precise, personalized treatments that account for an individual patient’s gene makeup and environmental factors.

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46brooklyn report describes the issues surrounding drug pricing distortions and the drug supply chain

  • The report describes the different prices that patients might pay for generic Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil).
    • Based on the authors’ research, a month’s supply for the HIV drug can be purchased through GoodRx for approximately $112 depending on a patient’s location, over $1,000 through other discount programs such as Optum Perks or Inside Rx, and varying prices through private insurance.
  • The authors also assert that, based on a pharmacy’s actual acquisition price for the drug, patients should be paying no more than $30 per month’s supply.

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