TeleMed Text: Pharma Grows Out of its Social Media Adolescence

Ogilvy Healthworld’s Social Check-up 2018 shows that pharma is starting to get it right, especially on patient interactive platforms such as Twitter. Ogilvy and Pulsar analyzed the strategy, content, and targeting effectiveness of 20 companies and found that for the first time, the number of posts online are declining, while the amount of company followers is increasing and could be due to more effective content.

Novo Nordisk, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis proved to be the most engaging companies, though they each received a below-average number of posts. The posts were better targeted, as evidenced by followers’ responses. Chloe Partikas, Social Media Director for Ogilvy Healthworld, commented to FiercePharma on why Novo Nordisk is leading the pack when it comes to patient engagement, saying, “Its more targeted focus on diabetes means most of the content the company posts is more likely relevant to its followers.” She found that Novo Nordisk also has a smart paid targeting strategy working to amplify its content.

The study also considered Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, evaluating community size, number of posts, engagement, and content. As a platform, Instagram grew the most by total number of users for pharma companies, with an increase of 67% in followers. While it has always been the least used social media site for pharma and their patient communities, the growth indicates that pharma marketers are utilizing its effectiveness with visually engaging content. It reveals a new area of potential growth for companies who are emerging as social media experts and those who have not yet considered the importance of reaching patients on this digital turf.

Coverage Corner: Medicare Finalizes Coverage for Next Generation Sequencing Tests for Cancer Patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a National Coverage Determination that covers diagnostic laboratory tests using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for patients with advanced cancer (i.e., recurrent, metastatic, relapsed, refractory, or Stages III or IV cancer). These tests can be used as a companion diagnostic to identify patients with certain genetic mutations that may benefit from FDA-approved treatments as well as help determine a patient’s candidacy for cancer clinical trials.

“We want cancer patients to have enhanced access and expanded coverage when it comes to innovative diagnostics that can help them in new and better ways,” Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, said in a statement. “That is why we are establishing clear pathways to coverage, while at the same time supporting laboratories that currently furnish tests to the people we serve.”

The decision was made following a parallel review with the FDA, which granted approval of the FoundationOne CDx (F1CDx) test in Nov. 2017. In addition to covering the F1CDx, CMS is covering FDA-approved or cleared companion in vitro diagnostics when the test has an FDA-approved or cleared indication for use in that patient’s cancer, and results are provided to the treating physician for management of the patient using a report template to specify treatment options.

DC Dispatch: Omnibus Spending Bill Addresses Opioid Epidemic, Ignores ACA

After threatening to veto the 2018 omnibus spending bill, President Trump signed into existence a spending plan that includes funding for NIH research and law enforcement to tackle the opioid epidemic, but none for the Affordable Care Act Exchanges. The NIH will now have a $88.1 billion budget, $10 billion more than 2017, as well as a $3 billion bonus for opioid addiction disease research. $1 billion of the funding will go to states and Native American tribes through grants to back programs fighting the epidemic. Congress is also allocating $284 million toward increasing the law enforcement response to the addiction crisis, following the President’s demands to “get tough” on drug dealers, including heavier use of the death penalty, who he believes may be fueling the opioid crisis.

However, while general healthcare and rural healthcare programs are seeing budget increases, Congress left out plans to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. Washington Democratic Senator, Patty Murray, explains that a partisan dispute over language on abortion derailed those discussions.

Doctor Docs: Physicians Say Prior Authorization Hurts Their Patients

The American Medical Association released a study revealing that 9 in 10 doctors believe prior authorization programs are barriers to care, negatively affecting their patients’ outcomes. Almost two-thirds of healthcare plans require prior authorization for addiction treatment, putting patients suffering from substance abuse disorders through detrimental wait times. One thousand physicians reported having to wait at least one business day for insurance to push through the prior authorization process, and 78% of these physicians say that their patients abandon a recommended treatment in that time.

As a result, 90% of those struggling with addiction who could be helped are not actually receiving the care they need. The AMA suggests policymakers push insurance companies to remove these barriers, especially for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and non-opioid treatments for pain management. These methods have proven to reduce the illegal use of opioids notably because they remove the physical need to use the drugs. Access to these life-saving treatments in the quickest possible time frame is integral to the fight against rampant opioid addiction.

Therapeutic Talk: Stem Cell Procedure Gives MS Patients New Hope

An international experimental procedure project has shown promising results, especially for the 110 patients with remitting MS. Fifty of the 110 of participants involved in the program were treated with an experimental stem cell transplant while the others stayed on their medicine. Treated in hospitals from Chicago to Brazil to Sweden, the patients’ immune systems—which periodically attack the brain and nervous systems as a result of the fatal disease—were wiped clean by chemotherapy and replaced entirely with a stem cell transplant, a process the National Multiple Sclerosis Society calls “rebooting” the immune system.

“These preliminary results from one of the first well-controlled clinical trials of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for MS are exciting,” says Bruce Bebo, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research at the National MS Society. “This trial adds to a growing body of knowledge that is helping to define the precise risks and benefits of HSCT and who is more likely to benefit.”

At the three-year follow up, the researchers found that the transplants had failed in 3 out of 50 treated patients as opposed to the 30 out of 50 patients in the control group who received drug treatment or HSCT.

FDA Update

Drug Approvals

AstraZeneca received FDA expanded approval for their immunotherapy drug Imfinzi to treat patients with unresectable Stage III non-small cell lung cancer. Separately, AstraZeneca and MedImmune announced the results of the Phase III MYSTIC trial for Imfinzi as monotherapy and in combination with tremelimumab, versus platinum-based standard-of-care (SoC) chemotherapy in previously-untreated patients with metastatic (Stage IV) first-line non-small cell lung cancer will be delayed until the second half of 2018.

Adcetris, Seattle Genetics’ brentuximab vedotin-based, intravenous drug, received approval to treat adults with previously untreated Stage III or IV classical Hodgkin lymphoma along with a regular chemotherapy regimen.

TaiMed Biologics USA Corp.’s Trogarzo, a new HIV treatment for patients who have tried multiple HIV medications without success, received FDA approval. The intravenous drug is administered by healthcare professionals in combination with other antiretroviral medications.

Med Device Approvals

Medtronic received expanded approval for the MiniMed 630G System with SmartGuard, a hybrid closed loop system that monitors glucose and automatically adjusts the delivery of long-acting or basal insulin based on the user’s glucose reading. It now has the approved ability to be inserted via the upper arm.

Benefit-Risk Assessment Program

The FDA released an update on its efforts to enhance the patient perspective and experience in drug development. The document, “Benefit-Risk Assessment in Drug Regulatory Decision-Making,” provides an overview of the steps the FDA has taken since 2013 to enhance benefit-risk assessment as well as provides a roadmap for the future with the goal of providing guidance by June 2020.

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