Report forecasts rapid rise in specialty drug spending through 2015

ST. LOUIS — Spending on specialty drugs is likely to increase by 67% over the next couple of years, according to a new study by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts.

ESI said that spending on the drugs, used to treat such serious conditions as autoimmune disorders and cancers, would increase due to a large number of drugs under development and doctors delaying treatment of patients until they're on the market. Research by the PBM has indicated that the country will spend nearly $115 billion on specialty drugs, most of them biologics, next year, meaning that drugs used by 2% of the population will account for $4 of every $10 spent on prescription drugs overall. At the same time, biosimilars are expected to save $250 billion between 2014 and 2024, according to another ESI report, released last month.

By the end of 2015, the report found, cancer, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, will each command higher drug-spending than any other therapy class except diabetes. Meanwhile, spending on hepatitis C drugs will quadruple over the next three years thanks to new drugs, expected to receive Food and Drug Administration approval next year, that don't use interferons; interferons are proteins that are a key component to many biotech drugs used to treat hepatitis C, and, while effective, they can carry many harmful side effects.

"As we see what's on the horizon, it's time for employers and health plans to act so they can continue to offer an affordable pharmacy benefit for their members," ESI SVP clinical, research and new solutions Glen Stettin said. "New specialty treatments are making a real difference in the lives of patients, but the very high cost of these drugs creates difficult decisions for plan sponsors on which medicines to cover."

Diabetes will continue to be the most expensive drug therapy through 2015, and spending on diabetes drugs will rise by an additional 24% because of high prevalence and a large number of drugs under development. Spending on drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder will increase by 25% despite the availability of new generics, mainly because of more middle-aged adults using them, as well as a wide geographic variation in diagnosis.