Mark A. Malesker, PharmD
Professor of pharmacy practice, Creighton University, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions
Daniel E. Hilleman, PharmD
Professor of pharmacy practice, Creighton University, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions
PDF version: 


Purpose: Single-pill-combination (SPC) antihypertensive drug products have been shown to improve compliance but are associated with higher acquisition costs. This study compared the clinical and economic outcomes associated with the use of an SPC of amlodipine/valsartan (trade name Exforge) with the outcomes from conventional combination therapy in patients failing to respond to initial monotherapy with either a dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker (DHP-CCB) or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).

Design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of hypertensive patients failing to respond to monotherapy with either a DHP-CCB or an ARB who were switched to an SPC of amlodipine/valsartan (SPC group) or to treatment that could not include any SPC (control group). The groups were matched for age, gender, race, baseline blood pressure (BP), and comorbidities. The primary outcomes of the study included the proportion of patients achieving BP targets, the absolute change in BP from baseline, the proportion of patients discontinuing drug therapy because of side effects, the proportion of patients noncompliant with drug therapy, and health care resource utilization and costs.

Principal findings: Fifty-eight SPC patients achieved BP targets compared with 47 control patients (P = 0.119). The absolute reduction in BP was significantly greater in the SPC group (–22.8 ± 6.9/–19.3 ± 5.2 mmHg) than in the control group (–20.6 ± 6.4/–17.8 ± 5.6 mmHg) (P < 0.03). Significantly fewer patients discontinued antihypertensive therapy because of side effects and noncompliance in the SPC group compared with the control group (both P = 0.042). SPC patients accrued fewer clinic visits, laboratory tests, and electrocardiograms but had higher drug acquisition costs. Median medical therapy costs were significantly lower in the SPC group at the end of the 6-month follow-up, primarily because of lower costs for clinic visits.

Conclusion: The use of the SPC of amlodipine/valsartan was associated with greater absolute BP reductions and fewer antihypertensive drug discontinuations because of side effects and noncompliance compared with the use of the individual drugs. Although the acquisition cost of the SPC was greater than that of the individual drugs, SPC combination therapy resulted in fewer clinic visits, laboratory tests, and electrocardiograms. As a result, the total cost of SPC therapy was significantly less than that associated with the use of the individual drug components.

Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.