Primary biliary cholangitis: Medical and specialty pharmacy management update

Christopher Bowlus, James T. Kenney, Gary Rice, Robert Navarro

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9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), previously known as primary biliary cirrhosis and which has been designated an orphan condition, is a chronic autoimmune disease resulting in the destruction of the small bile ducts in the liver. Without effective treatment, disease progression frequently leads to liver failure and death. Until May 2016, the only FDA-approved treatment for PBC was ursodiol (UDCA), an oral hydrophilic bile acid, which can slow progression of liver damage due to PBC. However, 1 out of 3 patients taking UDCA has an inadequate biochemical response, leading to increased risk of disease progression, liver transplantation, and mortality. Given this unmet clinical need, new therapies are in development for the treatment of PBC. To provide pharmacists with an overview of the latest research on the pathophysiology of PBC and potential new treatment options and to highlight medical and specialty pharmacy approaches to managing access to drugs to treat orphan diseases such as PBC, a 2-hour satellite symposium was presented in conjunction with the 2015 Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Nexus meeting. Although obeticholic acid was approved by the FDA for the treatment of PBC in May 2016, this development occurred after the symposium presentation. The symposium was supported by an independent educational grant from Intercept Pharmaceuticals and was managed by Analysis Group. Robert Navarro, PharmD, moderated the CPE-accredited symposium titled "Medical and Specialty Pharmacy Management Update on Primary Biliary Cirrhosis." Expert panelists included Christopher L. Bowlus, MD; James T. Kenney, RPh, MBA; and Gary Rice, RPh, MS, MBA, CSP. OBJECTIVE: To summarize the educational satellite symposium presentations and discussions. SUMMARY: Autoimmune liver diseases, including PBC, are responsible for 15[%] of all liver transplants performed and an equal percentage of deaths related to liver disease. UDCA is the only FDA-approved therapy for treatment of PBC and is considered the standard of care. Nevertheless, many patients do not respond to UDCA, creating the need for new therapeutic options to improve clinical outcomes for PBC patients with inadequate response to treatment. While several agents are being studied in combination with UDCA, monotherapy with the novel agent obeticholic acid, a farnesoid X receptor agonist, has also shown promising results. Health plans are anticipated to assign any newly introduced therapy for the treatment of PBC to specialty pharmacy given its orphan disease status. This assignment enables the health plan to receive disease education, which is particularly important when new drugs are indicated for orphan diseases, and assistance with designing appropriate prior authorization criteria. The clinical value of any new therapeutic options that will inform formulary decisions and prior authorization criteria will be assessed based on evidence of efficacy, safety, and tolerability, among other factors, such as the potential to reduce or delay medical resource utilization (e.g., liver transplant). Key considerations for prior authorization of a new therapy will be determining which PBC patients are appropriate candidates for the new therapy and developing criteria for that determination. These are likely to include clinical diagnostic criteria and degree of response to prior treatment with UDCA. Initially, any new therapy would likely be positioned as noncovered until appropriate prior authorization criteria are established. CONCLUSIONS: PBC is a chronic liver disease with significant morbidity and mortality, as well as a significant burden on the health care system if the disease progresses to the point at which a liver transplant is needed. Although UDCA, the current standard of care, has improved outcomes for many patients, others have an inadequate response to this treatment. This symposium discussed these issues and also addressed the overall treatment paradigm for orphan drug therapies, key implications for patient management, and the role of specialty pharmacy management and any associated needs both in general and specifically for new therapeutic options for PBC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S3-S15
JournalJournal of managed care & specialty pharmacy
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Health Policy


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