Express Scripts Holding Co. said the jump is credited in part by pricey specialty drugs which account for more than 31 cents of every dollar spent on prescriptions, despite representing only 1 percent of prescriptions filled in the US.
Specialty drugs represent advanced medications addressing complex or chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis or certain forms of cancer. While many are treatment breakthroughs like newer hepatitis C treatments including Sovaldi from Gilead Sciences Inc. The price of Sovaldi for a course of a treatment reaches $84,000, drawing criticism from patient groups, insurers and Express Scripts which runs prescription coverage for insurers and employers in the US.
Drugmakers claimed the higher cost of their drugs can be compensated over time because the treatments will reduce future health care costs. In Sovaldi’s case, Gilead has said that means fewer patients suffering from liver failure or transplant complications.
Express Scripts said in its annual report that spending on specialty drugs rose 31 percent last year, and compound drug costs also affected overall spending growth. In contrast, spending on more traditional prescription drugs rose 6.4 percent.
Similar to Express Scripts, other prescription bill payers negotiated for preferred treatment agreements with specialty drugmakers to gain leverage over the cost of the drugs. Some started using management tools to limit the use of drugs like Sovaldi only to the most serious forms of hepatitis C.