By Turna Ray
CVS Caremark, the country’s largest pharmacy-services provider, is expanding its pharmacogenomic testing to its pharmacy benefit management customers to predict their response to treatments for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and HIV, the company said this week.
The program will be put in place through Generation Health, a genetic testing benefit management company launched last year to help insurers, employers, and other PBMs implement genetic testing with in their systems.
Through the collaboration, all of CVS Caremark’s PBM clients will be offered PGx testing for certain drugs as of the second quarter 2010. CVS Caremark already offers pharmacogenomic testing services as part of its specialty pharmacy business.
CVS Caremark fills or manages more than 1 billion prescriptions annually. By expanding its PGx testing offerings, CVS Caremark is hoping to manage costs and improve healthcare outcomes within its various divisions, which include its more than 7,000 CVS pharmacy and Longs Drugs stores; its PBM, mail order and Caremark Pharmacy Services specialty pharmacy division; its retail-based health clinic subsidiary MinuteClinic; and its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The PBM division, Caremark Pharmacy Services, provides services to over 2,000 health plans.
The partnership will also “allow the companies to explore future programs in the medical diagnostics arena to encourage appropriate and cost-effective testing for certain hereditary diseases, and eliminate unnecessary testing where evidence for clinical validity and utility is lacking,” the collaboration partners said in a statement.
As part of the collaboration, CVS Caremark is making an undisclosed minority equity investment in Generation Health and CVS Caremark's chief medical officer Troyen Brenna will join the board of directors of Generation Health.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
PBM’S PGx Bet
To date, Medco has been the main player in the PBM world encouraging integration of pharmacogenomic strategies into the healthcare of its customers. Most recently, Medco, the second largest PBM in the US representing 60 million people, launched its Genetics in Generics program aiming to optimize savings for payors by dispensing off-patent drugs with the aid of genetic tests [see PGx Reporter 10-07-2009].
CVS Caremark’s decision to expand its PGx program signals the growing belief among pharmacy services providers that genomically targeted personalized medicine will improve drug efficacy, avoid adverse reactions, and lower healthcare costs.
“Through this partnership CVS Caremark will use genetic testing to apply greater precision to client prescription management, with the goal of improving individual health outcomes and reducing overall medical costs,” CVS Caremark said in a statement.
Initially, PGx testing will be offered to gauge patient response to oncology, cardiovascular, and HIV drugs, and will eventually be expanded to drugs in other disease areas.
CVS Caremark has been offering PGx testing to some of its customers on a limited basis for several years now. When Clinical Data launched its warfarin-sensitivity genetic test in 2006, the company said it was exploring ways to market the test through CVS Caremark’s pharmacy benefits arm [see PGx Repoter 10-10-2007].
“Pharmacogenomic programs can offer compelling clinical benefits, such as identifying HIV patients who do not respond to specific medications, and therefore, continue to experience disease progression, or help ensure that patients with breast cancer are prescribed the appropriate therapy based on the unique characteristics of their tumor,” CVS Caremark said in the statement.
Generation Health launched in 2008 with venture capital funding from Highland Capital Partners. Modeled after traditional PBMs, the company provides clinical and economic assessments to insurers, employers, and other PBMs interested in implementing and covering genetic testing within their systems.
It provides clinical evidence information on genetic tests, gathers data on genetic testing gaps or errors, and educates doctors, patients, and pharmacists [see PGx Reporter 10-21-2009].
The collaboration with CVS Caremark represents Generation Health’s first commercial partnership. Previously, the company had helped some unannounced self-insured employers launch pilot programs on PGx testing.