Diplomat works to control specialty drug costs

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FLINT, Mich. — Biosimilars, generic drugs and affordable branded drugs are top-of-mind at Diplomat Pharmacy Inc. this year as the specialty pharmacy looks to help health plans and patients rein in costs.

According to Diplomat president Joel Saban, the surging market for expensive specialty drugs has put pressure on stakeholders across the health care sector.

“With 90% of traditional medications now filled as generics, specialty pharmacy costs are driving pharmacy spend for payers,” Saban said in a statement. “To offer real solutions to today’s challenges, we need a new model with a diverse set of assets. The need for specialty benefit management solutions has never been more urgent.”

Joel Saban_Diplomat Pharmacy

Joel Saban

One example of Diplomat’s cost-saving measures is an enhanced split-fill program, which Saban said can save up to 50% per patient. EArlier this year, the company boosted the number of drugs in the program by 78%.

“We give patients a two-week supply at the start of a new therapy. This allows us to mitigate waste in the event a patient needs to change therapies early on,” he explained. “In avoiding medication waste, we reduce spend for both the payer and patient.”

Using alternative generic medications is another way that Diplomat helps health plans curtail costs. Saban reported that, for example, about $2,400 is saved monthly for each patient moved to generic oral oncolytic medication and $1,800 is saved for each patient shifted to generic multiple sclerosis medication.

Opportunities in the emerging biosimilar market, too, can present additional lower-cost options, according to Jeff Park, interim chief executive officer at Diplomat, the nation’s largest independent specialty pharmacy.

“We view biosimilars as a key lever in managing the rising cost of specialty spend,” Park stated. “Biosimilars have struggled to gain footing in the U.S. due to litigation. However, we expect the environment to become more favorable soon. This should lead to expanded biosimilar use and more affordable care.”

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research approved 46 novel new drugs, more than double the 2016 total and the most since 1996, according to a report published by Diplomat earlier this month.

“The robust specialty drug pipeline — with new drugs and expanded indications for previously approved treatments — continues to drive industry growth. One of Diplomat’s core strengths is staying ahead of the specialty pipeline curve,” Saban noted. “We start building relationships with innovative new companies years before product launch. This is important in continuing to increase our access to limited-distribution drugs.”

At the same time, Diplomat remains focused on bolstering specialty pharmacy services for its patients, who are grappling with difficult-to-manage complex chronic diseases

“We want to make sure patients receive the most effective treatment at a price they can afford,” added Saban. “Reviewing new generics and biosimilar products — incorporating cost-saving strategies as appropriate — these steps bring Diplomat closer to meeting these urgent needs.”


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