As promising biosimilar therapies to treat inflammatory conditions become available next year, Cigna Pharmacy, which manages pharmacy benefits, is announcing that it will add biosimilars as preferred products on its commercial formularies at the same position as Humira. These FDA-approved prescription medications are safe, clinically-similar alternatives to Humira, which is one of the most widely used biologic specialty medications that treats conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.
“Biosimilars hold tremendous promise to improve the affordability of life-changing specialty medications, and this is part of our work to expand access to them and achieve lower costs for the employers and members we serve,” said Katy Wong, chief pharmacy officer, Cigna Pharmacy. “By placing biosimilars on our formularies in the same position as Humira, we’re also ensuring that physicians and patients have choice and flexibility as they assess these additional biosimilar therapies.”
Cigna has found that the average annual price of therapy for specialty drugs, including biologics, is $38,000 per patient, which is 75 times higher than the price of therapy for non-specialty prescription drugs. According to research from Cigna’s health services business, Evernorth, specialty medications account for more than half of overall drug spending in the United States while less than 2% of the population uses a specialty medication.
Biologic manufacturers have been able to set extraordinarily high drug prices with patients having few, if any, drug options, Wong said. That is changing as biosimilars – approved by the FDA as effective, safe alternatives – come to market. By spurring competition, biosimilars can help reduce costs for employers, patients, and the health care system as a whole. Cigna integrated clients that utilize Cigna Pharmacy for their pharmacy benefits are expected to achieve significant savings as biosimilars like these are added to formularies.