Lembo Seeks To Block Use of ‘Expensive Specialty Drugs’
HARTFORD, CT — As the administrator of the state employees health insurance plan, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is taking steps to try and block the use of “outrageously expensive specialty drugs.”
Lembo said a review of pharmacy practices confirmed that the vast majority of prescriptions dispensed by two Connecticut pharmacies through the state health plan are for drugs manufactured by just one single drug manufacturer, Horizon Pharma.
At those two pharmacies, according to claims data, 70 percent of prescriptions they filled for the state plan were for Horizon Pharma products alone, Lembo said.
The data raises questions “about what possible incentives are motivating such a high concentration of prescriptions for Horizon’s products,” Lembo added.
According to Lembo, “Horizon specializes in expensive drugs — costing more than $1,000 per prescription, in some cases — even though these medications are essentially just combinations of affordable over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and Pepcid AC or Aleve and Nexium.”
A spokesman for Horizon disagrees with Lembo’s assessment and description of its drugs.
“At Horizon Pharma, a primary focus is to ensure that patients have access to the medicines their physicians prescribe while limiting their financial burden,” Matt Flesch, executive director of product communications for Horizon, said in an emailed statement. “For clarification, there are no FDA-approved generic, over-the-counter or clinically equivalent medicines to the medicines (DUEXIS and VIMOVO) Mr. Lembo mentions so saying that those medicines are ‘essentially combinations of affordable over-the-counter drugs’ is completely inaccurate.”
Flesch went on to state that “In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prescribing information for DUEXIS and VIMOVO specifically states, ‘do not substitute DUEXIS with the single-ingredient products of ibuprofen and famotidine’ and ‘do not substitute VIMOVO with the single-ingredient products of naproxen and esomeprazole magnesium,’ respectively. Additionally, all pharmacies that distribute Horizon branded medicines are fully independent. We have policies and governance in place to ensure that any interactions with pharmacies, payors and providers comply with all state and federal laws.”
Lembo said that, according to state claims data, one prescriber alone accounted for $1.5 million in prescriptions for Horizon products or 11.6 percent of total amount of Horizon products prescribed through the state plan.
“My office will continue to work in partnership with other state officials to block unnecessary costs to the state plan and investigate troubling pharmaceutical trends,” Lembo said.