Good morning. I hope you had a nice weekend and enjoyed the premiere of "Axios on HBO" Season 2.
Today's Vitals is 750 words, <3 minutes.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
There are only a handful of biosimilars available in the U.S. And one of the country's biggest insurers is about to start disadvantaging one of them, in favor of its more expensive competitor.
Why it matters: Deals like this are part of the reason biosimilars — envisioned, roughly, as generic versions of complex and pricy biologic drugs — aren't gaining a foothold. And that's keeping prices high throughout the system.
Details: Udenyca is a biosimilar version of the cancer drug Neulasta. Its list price is 33% lower than Neulasta's.
How it works: United will give preferential treatment to Neulasta because Amgen, which makes Neulasta, offered a bigger rebate than Coherus, which makes Udenyca, a source familiar said.
"Amgen will pursue any avenue they have to block out the competition and extend this monopoly," said Denny Lanfear, the chairman, president, and CEO of Coherus.
Between the lines: United is able to pass savings from this discount on to the insurers and employers it works for — which is, essentially, the way the system is supposed to work.
The bottom line: Because biosimilars are a new class of drugs, these kinds of arrangements not only disadvantage one drug, but are keeping the whole category from catching on, critics argue.
The cost of all but one of the 49 top-selling brand-name drugs included in a new JAMA study increased between 2012 and 2017.
By the numbers: The median cost increase of the drugs over these 6 years was 76%, and most drugs saw cost increases once or twice a year.
Caveat: The study uses data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Axis, which includes data from 35 million privately insured people. It did not account for rebates, which can't be linked to individual claims.
Key quote: "Competition among brand-name competitors appeared to do little to stymie rising costs."
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Are you following all the latest twists and turns in the Medicare for All debate? Or the Trump administration’s efforts to revive Medicaid block grants? Then you are unusual.
Between the lines: Most voters in these groups don't seem to see the current health reform proposals on either side of the aisle as solutions to their top problems: paying for care or navigating the health insurance system and red tape.
The Affordable Care Act decreased racial disparities in access to cancer and increased early detection of ovarian cancer, according to a new study reported on by the Washington Post.
What they're saying: “We are moving from black-white disparities to Massachusetts versus Mississippi disparities,” Otis Brawley, a Johns Hopkins oncologist, told the Post.
Have a great week!