In this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog, we take a look at several updates from companies and groups working on treatments and vaccines for the novel coronavirus. A bipartisan group seeks to protect hospitals from losing their 340B status due to lower inpatient hospital admissions from specific groups during the COVID-19 outbreak. And lawmakers continue to push for CMS transparency and to make the transparency and disclosure rules a law for hospitals.

Innovation Partners BioBlog July 12, 2020

Startup PBM Capital Rx, Walmart partner to shed light on specialty, mail-order drug prices

Walmart had teamed up with Capital Rx, a startup pharmacy benefits manager, with the goal of bringing greater transparency to mail order and specialty prescription pricing. Capital Rx has a special “clearinghouse” model which provides unit cost for drugs upfront to its clients. This model offers transparency by preventing spread-pricing which is often used by PBMs to charge payers higher prices to enhance the PBM’s profitability. Walmart was an early adopter of Capital Rx’s services and a natural partner for the new venture into specialty and mail-order drugs.

Senate bill aims to preserve 340B eligibility for hospitals affected by COVID-19 pandemic

A bipartisan group of senators is taking action to ensure that hospitals do not lose their 340B eligibility due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Trump administration has sought to cut 340B by one-third. 340B hospitals get a discount on drugs if they meet certain requirements, including providing a certain amount of charity care. Pharmaceutical manufacturers agree to provide the discounts in exchange for their products getting reimbursed by Medicaid. Eligibility is determined for 340B based on the inpatient hospital admissions of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients. Patient volume has, however, fallen during the pandemic due to haltling elective procedures. Hospitals have once again begun such procedures in many areas, but the senators are afraid that the lower numbers may be used to bolster the argument to change the hospitals’ eligibility status.

Coronavirus tracker: J&J CEO warns a COVID shot won’t be a panacea; Gilead launches inhaled remdesivir trials

Several updates are in this week on the progress towards both a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson’s CEO warned that even if a vaccine comes to market soon, more research into treatments for the novel coronavirus are still needed. The CDC and a panel of experts are developing plans for vaccine distribution once a vaccine is available. Gilead Sciences launched early trials on an inhaled form of remdesivir to treat earlier-stage COVID-19 patients and Gilead is working to expand supplies of the antiviral for wider distribution, including in Europe. Russia approved a new antiviral to treat the virus. This is the third in the country following its initial OK for Avifavir in June. As of July 9, the global COVID-19 case count topped 12 million with 550,000 deaths worldwide.

Anthem’s IngenioRx PBM to acquire data-driven pharmacy management company ZipDrug

IngenioRx, Anthem’s pharmacy benefits management arm, will acquire data-driven pharmacy management company ZipDrug. The insurer announced the planned acquisition on Monday. According to the company’s announcement, IngenioRx will offer ZipDrug’s services both integrated into its broader PBM platform and as a standalone service. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ADC Therapeutics Announces U.S. Food and Drug Administration Has Lifted Partial Clinical Hold on Pivotal Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Camidanlumab Tesirine

ADC Therapeutics SA today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has lifted the partial clinical hold on the pivotal Phase 2 clinical trial of camidanlumab tesirine (Cami, formerly ADCT-301) in patients with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). The 100-patient Phase 2, multi-center, open-label, single-arm clinical trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of Cami in patients with relapsed or refractory HL. Patients with pathologically confirmed relapsed or refractory HL who have failed three prior lines of therapy, including brentuximab vedotin and a checkpoint inhibitor approved for HL such as nivolumab or pembrolizumab, are eligible for enrollment in the clinical trial. The trial is intended to support the submission of a Biologics License Application to the FDA.ADC is a clinical-stage oncology-focused biotechnology company leading the development and commercialization of next-generation antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) with highly potent and targeted pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD) dimer technology.

Lawmakers want to put CMS price transparency rule into law and bypass legal challenges

A group of Republican senators sought this week to move the CMS price transparency rule into law and circumvent any potential legal challenges. Transparency, clarity, and competition remain the continued mantra as the senators push for the rule to be made into law. Last week, hospitals who fought to stop the rule lost in court. A federal judge ruled that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did have the authority to impose the rule, which goes into effect on Jan. 1 and requires hospitals to post payer-negotiated rates for 300 services.