Magazine article Drug Topics

Report: Specialty Drug Costs Will Skyrocket in Next Two Years

Magazine article Drug Topics

Report: Specialty Drug Costs Will Skyrocket in Next Two Years

Article excerpt

Costly treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sderosis, cancer, and especially hepatitis C are expected to drive unprecedented growth in U.S. specialty drug spending in the next two years. Some analysts say that's not good news for consumers or most pharmacists.

Express Scripts noted in its recently released Drug Trend Report that growth in specialty drug spending in 2013 had reached 14.1%. Between 2014 and 2016 costs associated with specialty drug spending are expected to skyrocket 63%.

Less than 1% of all U.S. prescriptions are for specialty medications. However, specialty chug spending makes up 27.7% of the country's total pharmacy spend.

Much of expected increase in specialty drug spending will be driven by a new hepatitis C therapy that costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, the report said. As an estimated 3.2 million Americans have hepatitis C, Express Scripts predicts that the United States will spend 1,800% more on hepatitis C medications in 2016 than it did in 2013.

"Never before has a drug [sofosbuvir (Solvaldi, Gilead Sciences)] been priced this high to treat a patient population this large, and the resulting costs will be unsustainable for our country," said Steve Miller, MD, chief medical officer at Express Scripts. "The burden will fall upon individual patients, state and federal governments, and payers who will have to balance access and affordability in a way they never have had to before.

'The current pricing mentality around innovative products is unprecedented and unreasonable," Miller said. "Standing sideby-side with many of the country's largest plan sponsors, we are going to drive toward a pricing environment that is fair for patients, payers, and manufacturers."

A significant advance

The steep cost of sofosbuvir - the costly hepatitis C pill - has spurred Express Scripts and others to cry foul. But Gilead maintains that the cost is justified.

"We believe the price of Sovaldi reflects the value of the medicine. Sovaldi represents a significant therapeutic advance over other available therapies, as it has shortened the duration of treatment to as little as 12 weeks and has reduced or completely eliminated the need for interferon injections, depending on the patient's genotype," a company announcement stated. Sofosbuvir is the first FDAapproved chug to treat hepatitis C without interferon, which must be injected and can cause debilitating side effects.

"The cost of the entire HCV regimen of 12 weeks of Sovaldi with interferon and ribavirin is consistent with and in many cases actually less than the cost of the previous protease-inhibitor-based regimens-with shorter duration of therapy, increased tolerability, and higher efficacy," the company said. …

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