Sarah Emond to Take Helm of ICER

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Sarah Emond will continue with ICER’s efforts to assess drug cost-effectiveness and health plan access policies that began with founder Steve Pearson, M.D., who will transition to an advisor role in 2024.

Sarah K. Emond

Sarah K. Emond

Sarah K. Emond will step into the role of president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) beginning in January 2024. She’ll replace founder and current president Steve Pearson, M.D., who will transition to an advisor role next year. Emond, who is currently is currently executive vice president and chief operating officer of ICER, has been with ICER for 14 years and has led strategic operations of the organization.

Founded in 2006 as a research program at Harvard Medical School, ICER today produces reports analyzing the evidence on the effectiveness and value of prescription drugs, as well as health plan access policies.

“When I founded ICER, I envisioned a laboratory where people could work together to bring evidence to light in service of building a healthcare system they could be proud of. A laboratory where good science, honesty, integrity, and mutual respect could combine to break down walls and bring all participants in the health care system together to do the hard work of wrestling with uncertainty and weighing how best to align pricing with value in support of better access for patients,” Pearson said in a press release. “In recent years, we have focused heavily on using evidence to support fair pricing and coverage for drugs, and Sarah has been my partner in executing this important work for the last 14 years.”

When she takes over in January 2024, Emond will continue to guide the organization to help inform policy and take an independent look at healthcare evidence. “You can expect more of the same, which is a commitment to bringing transparency into conversations about pricing and access, using evidence to facilitate conversations about how we balance those priorities and pay for value, she said in an interview with Formulary Watch.

During the transition period, Pearson will be special advisor and will continue to lead ICER’s public meetings. During this time, Pearson and Emond will work together to guide policy leadership. Emond said she will take a more active at conferences, meeting with stakeholders, and doing fundraising for the organization.

The ICER Analytics platform in 2024 will continue to be sponsored by AHIP, a trade association for health insurance plans. ICER Analytics is cloud-based platform introduced in 2020 that provides access to a searchable database of ICER’s evidence, as well as an interactive economic modeler to help with formulary development and coverage decisions.

Emond said ICER continuing to update its value assessment frame and plans to hold a webinar on Sept. 25 to explain the new framework. ICER uses two metrics to assess value: the quality adjusted life year (QALY), which measures how different medical treatments lengthen and/or improve patients’ lives, and equal value of life years gained (evLYG), which evenly measures any gains in length of life, regardless of the treatment’s ability to improve patients’ quality of life. The evLVG was developed by ICER along with disability advocates to address shortcomings in equality.

The quality adjusted life year metric has come under some scrutiny recently as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services prepares to negotiate prices of some drug prices the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Our goal to continue to produce analysis for both metrics so that decision makers can use the tool that they think is most appropriate,” Emond said. “There are a lot of questions about what kind of information CMS will need, how they will use that information, and what it's going to mean for their negotiation. Given our expertise, if there's a way to contribute, that's something we’ll seriously consider that. If that expertise is going to be helpful to CMS, we want to be ready and available for that. But there’s no formal plans right now.”

ICER is also continuing work on its third “Barriers to Fair Access” report, which is funded by The Commonwealth Fund and will be available in November. This report is reviewing a set of 19 products the ICER assessed in 2021 for patient cost-sharing, clinical eligibility criteria, step therapy and provider restrictions. This year, the Fair Access report is looking at top payers as well as the smallest plans in the health insurance exchanges in four different regions.

“We have almost 100% participation from the plans both in providing the policies to us and then giving us feedback on our draft findings,” Emond said.

Emond holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Heller School at Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Smith College. 

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