Study Finds Improved Drug Duration of Therapy is Worth Added Costs A long-lasting form of a drug for chemotherapy patients showed significantly longer duration of therapy than a similar drug requiring daily injections

SAN FRANCISCO, April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Patients were significantly more likely to receive the recommended duration of therapy when using a long-lasting form of a drug to treat a common complication of chemotherapy than those on a similar drug requiring daily injections, according to a new collaborative study from pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics (Prime) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBSM) that will be presented this week at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP)'s 24th Annual Meeting & Expo in San Francisco.

The study shows that pegfilgrastim (Neulasta), the long-lasting form of the drug, generated higher total pharmacy costs than did the short-lasting filgrastim (Neupogen). However, it also showed that the higher cost was largely due to longer duration of therapy, and shorter treatment in the daily form of the drug put many patients at risk of hospitalization.

"This study shows the importance of taking a holistic approach to evaluating comparative effectiveness," said Patrick Gleason, PharmD, director of clinical outcomes assessment at Prime. "Combining medical and pharmacy data allows for comprehensive assessment of specialty drug safety, effectiveness and total cost of care."

The study was launched when BCBSM asked Prime to analyze combined medical and pharmacy data to determine comparative effectiveness of different treatments for neutropenia, or low white blood cell count, a common side effect of chemotherapy which can result in hospitalization or even death if left untreated. There are two forms of the same drug, filgrastim (Neupogen) and pegfilgrastim (Neulasta), that are considered equally safe and effective when comparable regimens are administered, but filgrastim must be injected daily while a single pegfilgrastim dose lasts 14 days.

The collaborative analysis of more than 1.2 million members' medical and pharmacy data revealed significant differences in the duration of therapy and billing of filgrastim and pegfilgrastim. BCBSM and Prime found that although individuals treated with filgrastim had claim costs that were half those of pegfilgrastim ($5,563 versus $11,304), the average duration of pegfilgrastim was six times longer than for filgrastim. In fact, analysis revealed that 45 percent of the filgrastim users were receiving only six days of treatment or less, putting those who were using it to prevent or treat chemotherapy induced neutropenia (CIN) at serious risk of becoming hospitalized for CIN, the average cost of which is $13,400.

As a result of these findings based on real-world practice data, BCBSM decided not to identify filgrastim as the recommended treatment. Through collaboration with its clients, BCBSM and Prime are able to recommend therapy that may appear more costly but is actually more effective and in the best interests of the patients and their total cost of care.

Prime Therapeutics is a pharmacy benefit management company dedicated to providing innovative, clinically-based, cost-effective pharmacy solutions for clients and members. Providing pharmacy benefit services nationwide to nearly 20 million covered lives, its client base includes Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, employer and union groups, and third-party administrators. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., Prime Therapeutics is collectively owned by 13 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those Plans. Learn more at

SOURCE Prime Therapeutics

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