Hepatitis C Genotype Guides Health Plans
Genotype Testing Is Crucial to Course of Therapy for Hepatitis C Patients
December 30, 2008
Reprinted from SPECIALTY PHARMACY NEWS, a monthly newsletter designed to help health plans, PBMs, providers and employers manage costs more aggressively and deliver biotechs and injectables more effectively.
By Angela Maas, Managing Editor, ([email protected])
With hepatitis C patients, the length of treatment depends upon which of the six hepatitis C genotypes the person has. According to Beckie Fenrick, Pharm.D., director of clinical pharmacy at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, the treatment regimen for genotypes 2 and 3 is generally 24 weeks, while the regimen for 1, 4, 5 and 6 is 48 weeks. The most common genotypes in the U.S. are 1, 2 and 3.
Many health plans require physicians to provide the organization with the genotype information so they can be sure the patient is receiving the appropriate length of therapy. According to Enoch Strollo, vice president of sales and marketing for BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy, genotype testing costs typically between $450 and $600, and health plans typically cover this expense.
Some plans that spoke to SPN say they require genotype testing either before therapy begins or shortly thereafter.
According to Beverly Franklin-Thompson, Northeast regional pharmacy director for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, BCBST allows patients to immediately begin treatment but then requires the physician to follow up with the patient’s genotype. “This minimizes impediments to treatment initiation, allowing a patient to immediately fill the prescriptions for the hepatitis C medications,” she says. After a physician notifies BCBST of the patient’s genotype, “an approval for a specific duration of treatment is granted,” she explains. “A nurse contacts the prescriber to assure that certain tests are being performed and to obtain the results of those tests so that the duration of treatment can be determined and authorization loaded. No prior authorization is required to begin therapy; however, to continue treatment beyond the first few months, clinical parameters such as genotyping must be obtained.”
The Florida Blues plan requires physicians to determine patients’ genotype so it can make sure patients undergo the appropriate length of therapy. The plan also has practitioners notify it of patients’ viral loads at the 12-week mark. If there has been “an appropriate reduction, the approval for additional weeks occurs,” Fenrick explains. CIGNA HealthCare also requires a follow-up lab test after the first 12 weeks of therapy, says Todd Cooperman, Pharm.D., director of specialty pharmacy clinical program development.
Mark Leeper, vice president of marketing and clinical program development for PrecisionRx Specialty Solutions, WellPoint, Inc.’s specialty pharmacy, says that when a plan does not require genotype testing, “we do highly encourage it.” He explains that “a member’s hepatitis C genotype will drive treatment and monitoring. Type 1 genotype is more difficult to treat and requires members to stay on the therapy longer. Also, changes in viral load are influenced by genotype. We conduct baseline information on viral load, and then repeat testing for all genotypes at four, 12 and 24 weeks. For Type 1, we continue testing at 36 weeks and 48 weeks. This schedule is important to allow physicians to adjust dosing to respond to the patient’s viral load.”
He says if those patients with genotype 1 “don’t respond by week 12, they are unlikely to respond, and continuing with therapy is not productive.”
Sara Deno, Pharm.D., a manager of clinical services for BioScrip, Inc., who also oversees the adherence and therapy optimization program BioScripCare for hepatitis C, says that plans can structure prior authorizations so that patient response is checked at various intervals.
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