Adalimumab, sold under the brand name Humira, enjoyed a long run as one of the world’s best-selling medicines. But its 20-year, competition-free period has ended, and despite its best efforts to delay their arrival, drug manufacturer AbbVie now faces increasing competition from biosimilars entering the marketplace.
But one biosimilar about to be launched may be something of a game changer. Coherus BioSciences has announced plans to market its biosimilar Yusimry (adalimumab-aqvh) at a cost of $995 for two autoinjectors. This represents an approximate 85% discount over Humira’s sale list price of $6922.
This price, however, is slated to plunge even further as Coherus has also revealed that it will work with the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (MCCPDC) to offer an even lower price. When Yusimry launches in July, it will sell for about $579 for two autoinjectors, making it the lowest-priced adalimumab biosimilar on the market.
“Coherus and Cost Plus Drug Company share a common mission, to increase access to high-quality medicine for patients at an affordable price,” said Dennis Lanfear, MBA, president, CEO and chairman of Coherus. “Mark Cuban and his team offer innovative solutions to healthcare problems, and Coherus is also a highly innovative company focused on unmet patient needs.”
He noted that with adalimumab biosimilar pricing, this translates to a low list price approach. “We are pleased that Yusimry will be a part of that, as the first biologic they carry,” Lanfear said.
MCCPDC prices are based on the cost of ingredients and manufacturing plus 15% margin, a $3 pharmacy dispensing fee, and a $5 shipping fee. The company has expanded its inventory from 100 generics to more than 350 medications since it launched in January 2022. While MCCPDC is primarily directed to people who are paying cash for drugs, it does take insurance from select plans. And even for people who are covered by other insurers, the cost of drugs from Cuban’s company may be less than their out-of-pocket costs if they did go through their payer.
The low pricing of Yusimry is welcome, said Marcus Snow, MD, an assistant professor in the division of rheumatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, but he pointed out that it is still a very expensive drug. “For patients who can’t afford Humira due to poor insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs, it is a welcome option,” Snow said. “But it’s also unclear how many patients who lack adequate health insurance coverage can afford to pay $579 a month out of their own pockets.”
The Biosimilars Are Coming
By early December 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved seven Humira biosimilars, and Amgen launched the first biosimilar to come on the market, Amjevita, soon afterwards. By July 2023, half a dozen more are expected to enter the marketplace, said Steven Horvitz, managing director of EMC Analytics Group, a pharmaceutical research firm.
Horvitz agrees that the system is out of control, but it is unclear how much of an effect the low price tag on the Coherus product will have. “Some insurers may say, ‘we want the lowest price, and we don’t care about rebates,’ and will go with it,” he said. “PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] are all about economics, so we have to see how many of their major clients will ask for the lowest price.”
Amgen has more or less followed the status quo on pricing for its biosimilar, but with a twist. It’s being offered at two different prices: $85,494 a year, which is only a 5% discount from Humira’s list price, or at $40,497 a year, a 55% discount. However, to date, the lower price has generally not been granted favorable formulary placement by PBMs. The plans that adopt the higher-priced biosimilar will get bigger rebates, but patients with co-insurance and deductibles will pay more out of pocket.
It is yet unknown how the pricing on Yusimry will affect the biosimilars ready to launch. “Will it give them pause for thought or not make any difference?” Horvitz said. “The companies do not reveal their pricing before the fact, so we have to wait and see.”
Large PBMs have not jumped at the opportunity to offer the Coherus biosimilar, but SmithRx, which bills itself as “next-generation pharmacy benefits management,” announced that it will offer Yusimry to its members at a discount of more than 90%.
“Unlike traditional PBMs, SmithRx prioritizes transparency and up-front cost savings. Humira is often an employer’s top drug expense so offering a low-cost alternative will have significant impact,” Jake Frenz, CEO and founder of SmithRx, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Cost Plus Drugs to bring this biosimilar to our members — and significantly reduce costs for them and their employers.”
Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse and an award-winning medical writer who has written for many major news outlets and is a regular contributor to Medscape.
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