Weekly Rx Roundup for Aug. 18, 2023

Top pharmacy news stories of the week

Covid-19 image - Weekly Rx Roundup

Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccine is effective against Eris variant

In this Weekly Rx Roundup, Moderna reports an initial study data showed its updated COVID-19 vaccine to be effective against the “Eris” and “Fornax” subvariants in humans.

The company expects the updated shot to be available, pending approval from the FDA, in the coming weeks for the fall vaccination season.

Pfizer has reported that its updated COVID-19 shot showed success at neutralizing activity against the Eris subvariant in a study conducted on mice. Pfizer has yet to complete its study in humans.

Eris, the nickname for EG.5, is a sub-lineage of the still-dominant Omicron variant. EG.5 accounted for about more than 17% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the latest government data. Infections from Fornax, officially known as FL 1.5.1, are also rising across the country.

Two big PBM stories in this Weekly Rx Roundup

Shares of CVS Health plunged 8% on Thursday after Blue Shield of California said it will drop the company’s pharmacy benefit management services and instead partner with Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs company and Amazon Pharmacy to save on drug costs for its nearly 5 million members. 

The announcement hints at the potential for health insurers to abandon the traditional pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM, system and sent shares of other companies that offer PBM services lower.

CVS Health’s Caremark has been Blue Shield’s PBM partner for more than 15 years. 

The other big story is that the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued an unfavorable decision in the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) v. Mulready appeal.

The decision overturns Oklahoma’s effort to regulate pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs) – and likely would have implications for other states as well. The ruling allowing PBMs to escape certain state regulation by hiding behind the alleged preemption of that law by federal ERISA and Medicare Part D laws. 

“The Tenth Circuit decision is inconsistent with what other federal courts have decided, and it departs from the Supreme Court’s unanimous Rutledge decision, which clearly held that PBMs can’t hide behind ERISA. It must be overturned,” said B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association.

AAP is following this story closely and will keep you updated as it unfolds.