By Clive Riddle, March 13, 2015
Numerous studies have been warning that prescription cost increases, domesticated and docile for some time now, have returned to the wild - resurging and rearing their unpleasant head.
During last fall, Evaluate published a new 18-page report , "Budget-busters: The Shift to High-Priced Innovator Drugs in the USA." that addresses the growth of high-end prescription drugs. Evaluate tells us that "the median price of the Top 100 drugs has skyrocketed from $1,260 in 2010 to $9,400 in 2014, representing a seven-fold increase," and that "the average patient population size served by a Top 100 drug in 2014 was 146,000 down from 690,000 in 2010. The number of treatments costing in excess of $100,000 per patient per year rose to seven in 2014 versus four in 2010."
When Segal released their 2015 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey, they stated “Health benefit plan cost trend rates for 2015 are forecast to drop slightly for some coverage, but to increase substantially for prescription drug coverage...…The increase in the cost of prescription drug carve-out coverage for actives and retirees under age 65 is expected to jump to nearly 9 percent. Prescription drug trend for retirees age 65 and older is expected to rise to 7.5 percent, more than twice the rate of retiree medical cost trends. The projected specialty drug/biotech trend rate for 2015 is an exceptionally high 19.4 percent.”
A number of other studies cite similar concerns, and this week Express Scripts weighed in with their annual Drug Trend Report. They state “new hepatitis C therapies with high price tags and the exploitation of loopholes for compounded medications drove a 13.1 percent increase in U.S. drug spending in 2014 – a rate not seen in more than a decade.”
Here’s some key selections from Express Scripts findings:
“Hepatitis C and compounded medications are responsible for more than half of the increase in overall spending. Excluding those two therapy classes, 2014 drug trend (the year-over-year increase in per capita drug spending) was 6.4 percent.”
“Specialty medications – biologic and other high cost treatments for complex conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and cancer – accounted for more than 31 percent of total drug spending in 2014. As Express Scripts forecasted last year, specialty drug trend more than doubled in 2014, to 30.9 percent. Hepatitis C medications accounted for 45 percent of the total increase in specialty spend despite having the second lowest prescription volume among the top 10 specialty conditions. Medicare plans – required to follow Medicare Part D formulary guidelines – were the hardest hit, as their annual specialty drug spend increased 45.9 percent.”
“Spending on traditional classes of medications continues to rise as a result of compounded drugs, which emerged in the top 10 traditional therapy classes for the first time. Despite having the least number of prescriptions among the top 10 classes, compounded medications accounted for 35 percent of the increase in spending, the most of any traditional therapy class of drugs.”
“Drugmaker consolidation and drug shortages also led to increases in traditional drug trend, which rose to 6.4 percent in 2014. Diabetes remains the leading traditional therapy class for a fourth straight year based on total costs; Express Scripts expects double-digit increases in spend in this class over the next three years due to once-weekly oral and injectable drugs in the pipeline. Cost for medications to treat pain increased 15.7 percent in 2014, due in part to new tamper-resistant formulations for opiates.”