To examine US commercial health plans’ adoption of 2018 FDA-approved drugs.
We identified novel drugs that the FDA approved in 2018 and categorized them as follows: cancer treatment, orphan drug, included in an expedited review program, and biosimilar. Using a data set of 17 large health plans’ drug coverage policies and formularies, we examined coverage 1 year following FDA approval.
The FDA approved 66 drugs in 2018 (5 were not yet marketed 1 year following approval). For 60 of 61 drugs, some plans issued coverage policies whereas other plans included the drug in their formularies. Plans imposed restrictions (eg, step therapy) in 37% (275/742) of coverage policies. Plans covered biosimilars, orphan drugs, and cancer treatments more generously than drugs not in those categories (P < .05). Plans imposed restrictions in their policies with different frequencies (range, 7%-52%). Plans imposed utilization management (UM) in 82% (3837/4697) of formulary entries. Of those entries, plans required prior authorizations in 98%, included drugs on the highest patient co-payment tier in 70%, and imposed step therapy in 3%. Plans most often placed orphan drugs and cancer treatments on the highest cost-sharing formulary tiers (68% and 64% of the time, respectively). Plans imposed UM in their formularies with different frequencies (range, 62%-100% of entries).
Health plans imposed fewer coverage restrictions on cancer treatments, orphan drugs, and biosimilars than on drugs not in those categories. Some plans covered 2018 FDA-approved drugs more generously than others, which has implications for patients’ access to innovative therapies.