2020 Formulary Exclusion Lists

2020 Formulary Exclusion Lists:

A Review of Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and OptumRx

It’s that time of year again, PHSI’s annual review of the PBM formulary exclusion list updates!  Express Scripts (ESI), CVS Caremark, and OptumRx have published their formulary exclusion lists for 2020.  Based on PHSI’s calculations, OptumRx leads the way with 246 new formulary exclusions.  Of those 246 exclusions, 169 (69%) were for brands that have covered generic equivalents.  CVS Caremark added 100 new exclusions; 32 of those 100 exclusions (32%) were for brands with available generics.  ESI will exclude an additional 35 drugs, 13 (37%) of which are multisource brands.  The new 2020 exclusions, as researched by PHSI, are as follows:

Chart 1 New Formulary Exclusions

Excluded multisource brands with available generics are as follows:

Chart 2 New Formulary Exclusions - Brands with Generics

During the review, PHSI made the following observations:

  • OptumRx seemed to pay more attention to the topical corticosteroids class this year, excluding an additional 13 agents that may not have specific generic equivalents. Examples of excluded agents include Psorcon cream, Ultravate lotion, and Cloderm cream.
  • With the 2020 additions, OptumRx more than tripled the number of drugs on its list of excluded brand-name medications with generic equivalents. The total number of drugs on OptumRx’s list of excluded brand-name medications with generic equivalents is now approximately double that of ESI’s list.  Optum indicates that “these brand-name medications have been identified as having available generic equivalents covered at Tier 1 on the formulary.”  This change may signal OptumRx’s increased commitment to reduce unnecessary drug spend.
  • ESI seemed to focus on the hematological class for 2020, with approximately 14% of the new exclusions coming from this category. ESI’s list of agents excluded for 2020 includes Jadenu, Jadenu Sprinkle, Nuwiq, Granix, and Mulpleta.  PHSI believes that ESI may be leading the PBM charge as it relates to hematological agent exclusion.  With many new hematological products expected to launch, we anticipate that this will become a more tightly controlled category in subsequent years.
  • CVS focused heavily on the dermatological category for 2020 exclusions, with an additional 19 dermatology agents being added to the exclusion list. Examples of excluded agents include mupirocin cream, Acanya, Finacea Gel, and fluocinonide cream 0.1%.
  • CVS is making a strong push to exclude high cost dietary supplement agents. Twenty-five dietary supplements were added to the exclusion list for 2020, with folic acid being the preferred on-formulary alternative.  Because these products are not FDA-approved and often have high costs, this can be an effective way to manage plan drug spend.  Examples of excluded dietary supplements include Xyzbac, Mebolic, Dexifol, and Vasculera.
  • CVS Caremark is becoming manufacturer-specific in their formulary exclusions; they note five products where specific NDCs are excluded. For example, CVS’s formulary excludes benzonatate NDCs 69336-0126-15 and 69499-0329-15.  Excluded NDC 69336-0126-15 has a per-unit WAC of $71.42, while pharmaceutically equivalent GPI competitors have WAC pricing of $2.20 per unit.  For a product that may be reimbursed at a non-MAC rate, choosing the correct manufacturer’s product can have impactful reimbursement consequences for payers.
  • With the launch of lower cost generic tadalafil, all three major PBMs have chosen to exclude brand Cialis in 2020.
  • As mentioned in our 2019 Exclusion List Review, ESI continues to use indication-based management for the “inflammatory conditions” drug class. Reviewing the updates to that category, Inflectra and Renflexis are no longer preferred agents for 2020.

Each of the major PBMs has taken a different approach to managing drug spend in 2020 and formulary exclusions continue to play a major role.  PBMs exclude products because of clinical, financial, and humanistic reasons.  They are making value judgments and have decided covering these products is no longer warranted.  This article represents PHSI’s analysis of publicly available information regarding the three PBMs’ formulary exclusion lists for 2020.  Readers are encouraged to assess the lists for themselves.  Links to the exclusion list source information are provided below.


Posted November 2019

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