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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Biogen Straps Fitbits Onto MS Patients' Wrists

The company, which has five MS drugs on the market, gave out 250 Fitbit bands to MS patients in the U.S. last spring to track their level of activity and sleep patterns. Mobility is affected by the disease, and Biogen says collecting data on a daily basis—about how much and how fast MS patients walk, for example—could yield data about the progression of the disease and lead to better treatments.
“Let’s say you see a patient four times a year—that’s two hours per year,” says Al Sandrock, Biogen’s chief medical officer. “You’re losing 364.9 days of other data that could be collected.”
The data also could help Biogen prove the value of its pricey medications to health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, who are responding to rising drug prices by reducing the number of medicines covered. “It’s a smart investment,” says Tim Coetzee, chief research officer of the National MS Society. Express Scripts dropped Bayer’s MS drug Betaseron, directing patients to three other options, including Biogen’s Avonex. MS drugs cost at least $50,000 a year at wholesale prices, Coetzee says. “Having the tools to demonstrate the value of a particular agent is valuable,” he says.

“Betaseron is comparably priced to other MS treatments,” says Rosemarie Yancosek, a Bayer spokeswoman.
Decisions about which drugs to cover depend on several factors, says Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry, including the number of drugs on the market, how they work, and their price. None of Biogen’s five MS drugs—Avonex, Fampyra, Plegridy, Tysabri, and Tecfidera—has been taken off the pharmacy benefit managers’ lists. The medicines are projected to bring in almost $8 billion in revenue this year.
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