Spending On Specialty Drugs On The Rise, Expected To Double By 2009, Express Scripts Says

Spending on specialty drugs — a category that includes many biotech treatments for chronic conditions — increased 17.5% in 2005, while spending on traditional medications increased 10%, according to a study released on Wednesday by Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports (Agovino, AP/Detroit Free Press, 6/7). The study, which analyzes data from Express Scripts members, examines trends in the following categories: the inflationary increase in existing drugs, the increase in prescriptions written, the level of generic and specialty drugs prescribed, and spending on new drugs (Feldstein, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/6). The study also predicts trends in prescription drug spending, based on data from the federal government and IMS Health (AP/Detroit Free Press, 6/7). According to the study:

  • About 3% of U.S. residents take specialty drugs, but use of the treatments is growing at a rate twice that of traditional drugs (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/6).;
  • Spending on specialty drugs accounted for 19%, or $40 billion, of all prescription drug spending in 2005;
  • Spending on specialty drugs is projected to reach $90 billion by 2009 and account for 28% of the projected $316 billion in total spending on all medications, while spending on traditional medicines will grow by 32% to $226 billion;
  • The greatest increases in specialty drug spending in 2005 were for treatments for inflammatory diseases, which increased 35%; hemophilia, which increased 25%; and cancer drugs called antineoplastics, which increased 19.2%; and
  • Spending on two types of specialty drugs — antivirals and fertility treatments — declined because of decreased use.

Express Scripts spokesperson Steve Littlejohn said the projected growth in specialty drug spending will be driven by the creation of new products, approval of additional uses for existing medications and increases in the number of patients (AP/Detroit Free Press, 6/7). Steve Miller — chief medical officer for Curascript specialty pharmacy, a subsidiary of Express Scripts — said the number of new blockbuster medications is decreasing because more physicians are prescribing generic drugs to manage chronic conditions. Robert Epstein, chief medical officer for Medco Health Solutions, the largest PBM in the U.S., said, “Physicians are increasingly worried about drug safety and so are consumers, for that matter” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/6).

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