Explosion in Spending for Biologic Drugs

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • The recently released 2006 Express Scripts Specialty Drug Trend Report states that spending for biotech drugs used to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease increased almost 34% in 2005. This class of drugs includes the injectable biologicals Enbrel(R), Humira(R), Kineret(R) and Remicade(R). These four drugs are the most popular of the biotech drugs; together they make up 19% of the total specialty drug spending for pharmacy benefits. Each prescription costs an average of $1,417, and Enbrel makes up 75% of the cost and 75% of these prescriptions.

    Express Scripts counts greater utilization as the biggest reason for the increase in spending because treatments for inflammatory diseases are beginning earlier and lasting longer. The company also cites the use of these drugs for diseases other than rheumatoid arthritis as a major factor. Although pharmacy benefit companies like Express Scripts have had some success in containing costs through the use of specialty pharmacies, utilization management and limiting the size of pharmacy networks, the explosive growth in spending could become problematic for consumers. One problem is that there is limited access to the market for generic competitors.
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    Express Scripts has also seen increases in spending for other specialty drugs, such as cancer drugs and drugs used to treat blood clotting deficiencies. The pharmacy management company projects that by 2009, specialty drug spending will reach $90 billion or 28% of the $316 billion that will be spent on all medications in total.

    Express Scripts, Inc. is a Missouri-based company that manages pharmacy benefits for more than 55 million consumers. The June 7, 2006 press release and more information can be found at Express Scripts, Inc.
Published On: June 12, 2006