The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) has emerged in a visible role in US health care. However, it is unclear to what extent US commercial health plans use ICER value assessments in their specialty drug coverage decisions.
To evaluate the relationship between ICER’s reported cost-effectiveness ratios (CERs) and coverage restrictiveness. Also, to examine the frequency with which plans have cited ICER in their coverage policies and to investigate how frequently health plans adjusted their drug coverage criteria in the 12 months after ICER’s assessments.
We analyzed the Tufts Medical Center Specialty Drug Evidence and Coverage Database, which includes specialty drug coverage decisions issued by 17 large US commercial health plans. For ICER-assessed drugs, we recorded ICER’s estimated CERs in the form of cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained. First, we used multivariate logistic regression to examine the association between ICER’s reported CERs and plan coverage restrictiveness, when controlling for other factors that were likely to affect decision-making. Next, we examined how often plans cited ICER’s assessments in coverage decisions issued in years 2017-2020. Lastly, we examined whether plans added or removed coverage restrictions (eg, patient subgroup restrictions or step therapy protocols) in the 12 months following ICER’s assessment.
Plans tended to cover drugs with higher (less favorable) CERs more restrictively than drugs with CERs less than $100,000 per QALY: odds ratio (OR) = 4.48 if $100,000-$175,000 per QALY; OR = 2.00 if $175,000-$500,000 per QALY; and OR = 2.10 if $500,000 or more per QALY (all P < 0.01). Plans cited ICER in 0.8% (5/622) of coverage policies in 2017, 0.6% (5/833) in 2018, 1.7% (19/1,139) in 2019, and 2.4% (33/1,406) in 2020. For drugs with CERs less than $175,000 per QALY, plans adjusted coverage in 37% of cases: added restrictions in 20%, removed restrictions in 15%, and added one restriction but removed another in 2%. For drugs with CERs of $175,000 or more, plans changed coverage criteria in 29% of cases: added restrictions in 21%, removed restrictions in 5%, and added one restriction but removed another in 4%.
We found that when controlling for other factors, health plans’ specialty drug coverage decisions were associated with ICER’s estimated CERs. Plans infrequently cited ICER value assessments. We did not observe a trend for plans more often narrowing coverage criteria for drugs with CERs $175,000 or more compared with drugs with CERs less than $175,000.