From the Journals

Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis insurance coverage remains restrictive



Insurance coverage for specialty drugs to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis varies extensively among insurance companies and often restricts coverage beyond the drug labels, according to a review of data from commercial health plans in the United States.

Although specialty medications have demonstrated effectiveness for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, data on insurance coverage for these indications are limited and costs are often a barrier to treatment, Christine Learned, of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and colleagues wrote.


In a study published in the Journal of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis, the researchers used the Tufts Medical Center Specialty Drug Evidence and Coverage database, which includes information on 158 specialty drugs covered by 17 U.S. commercial health plans, to review data on a total of 11 medications indicated for psoriasis (etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, secukinumab, ixekizumab, brodalumab, ustekinumab, guselkumab, tildrakizumab, risankizumab, and apremilast) and 11 indicated for psoriatic arthritis (etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, golimumab, secukinumab, ixekizumab, ustekinumab, guselkumab, tofacitinib, apremilast, and abatacept) at the time of the study.

Overall, an average of 78.6% and 66.8% of insurance plans were more restrictive than the Food and Drug Association label in coverage of specialty medications for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, respectively.

Disease severity affected insurance coverage for psoriasis. The percentage of plans with a body surface area requirement for specialty medications ranged from 11% for apremilast to 39% for tildrakizumab, adalimumab, and certolizumab pegol. The percentage of plans with exceptions for special body locations affected by psoriasis ranged from 6% for risankizumab and brodalumab to 39% for certolizumab pegol. In addition, 6% of plans had Psoriasis Area and Severity Index requirements for etanercept and ixekizumab, and 11% had PASI requirements for adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, and tildrakizumab.

The percentage of plans with prescriber restrictions for both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis ranged from 33% to 50%.

All 11 medications for psoriatic arthritis were approved as first-line treatments by at least one plan, compared with 3 the 11 medications with indications for psoriasis. However, medications for both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis were approved mainly as second-line therapies.

Study designs may impact insurance coverage, as randomized, controlled trials are often used as the basis for coverage decisions for psoriasis, while coverage for psoriatic arthritis is more often based on clinical guidelines, the researchers explained.

“Our analysis confirms that variability exists for the indications of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis,” they wrote.

The comorbidities associated with psoriasis are not always considered in insurance coverage, and coverage complications may contribute to the persistent undertreatment of many patients with psoriasis, the researchers added.

“Insurance restrictions may blunt provider and patient autonomy in selection of specialty medications and have the potential to diminish a provider’s ability to tailor regimens so as to optimize outcomes while minimizing risks,” they emphasized.

The study findings were limited by the inclusion only of publicly available policy information; therefore, some plans’ restrictions may have been missed in the analysis, the researchers said.

The results suggest that patients should review their insurance coverage of specialty drugs when choosing a health plan, and clinicians should factor in a patient’s plan a likely drug access when considering treatment options, they concluded.

The study received no outside funding. Ms. Learned had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose, but two coauthors reported financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies that manufacturer drugs for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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