Insurers blame specialty drug costs for rising premiums. This report from California shows why

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/report-prescription-drug-costs-driving-up-insurance-premiums?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWWpZNU4yTTROREExWlRsaSIsInQiOiJjZHh5VGpsWnhSN3RLQjNHbDNsWUROQkg0Y2EzOFZ3OFY2Z0Z1a1dFNVhwNkRXNTE3dTNMK0U2TloxUnFKT1RDU29cL3NEZ0gwMTdJbUptaTFxamFTbFg1cG1PbFRHbTQ2TmQzRHhYZERqcUZXQ1B0YVF1aW1QODBDb2g3aHA1cEwifQ%3D%3D&mrkid=959610&utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

Drugs and money sign

Specialty drugs made up about 3% of prescriptions in California in 2017 but accounted for more than half of the prescription drug spending that year, according to new report that compiled drug spending from nine insurers in that state.

According to the first Prescription Drug Cost Transparency Report released by the California Department of Insurance, there were about 270,000 specialty prescriptions compared to about 1.4 million brand-name prescriptions and about 8.9 million generic prescriptions in 2017.

Insurers—including Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare—reported spending upwards of $606 million on specialty drugs, $271.3 million on brand-name drugs and $172.6 million on generics in 2017.

Among other findings, the report said:

  • In all, insurers reported that per member per month drug spending reached about $81 last year, or about 16.5% of premiums in 2017, comparable to per member per month spending of about $76 or 16.3% in 2016. Total health insurance premiums per member per month were about $491 in 2017, compared to about $470 in 2016.
  • Specialty prescriptions on average cost about $2,361 per prescription compared to about $236 for brand-name prescriptions and $29 for generics. Members typically pay about $113 per specialty prescription while insurers said they pay about $2,248 per specialty drug. They report members pay about $45 per brand-name drug, while insurers pick up $192 of the tab for brand names. And they report members typically pay about $10 for generics on average while insurers pay about $19.
  • The top 25 most frequently prescribed drugs in California represent about 40% of insurers’ overall spending. Specialty drugs make up about 1.3% of the 25 most frequently prescribed drugs and about 20% of insurers’ spending (resulting in a 3.7% impact on health insurance premiums.) In comparison, brand-name drugs make up about 6.8% of the most frequently prescribed drugs and about 11% of insurer spending (and a 1.2% impact on health insurance premiums). Generics represent about 32% of the most frequently prescribed drugs and 4% of the cost to insurers (and about .3% impact on premiums.)

The most frequently prescribed specialty drugs included HIV drug Truvada, immunosuppressant Humira, insulin therapeutic Humalog, diabetes drug Victoza and hormonal agent Androgel.

The most costly specialty drugs by total annual prescription drug spending included Humira, arthritis drug Enbrel, Truvada, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis drug Stelara and multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone.

 

 

 

Drug prices are still skyrocketing

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-60130f85-58f2-499f-abf8-271cf0d1c225.html

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The Trump administration — primarily the president himself — has talked a lot about cracking down on prescription drug prices. But the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t changed its ways since Trump took office: 20 drugs have seen price hikes of 200% or more since January 2017, my colleague Bob Herman reports this morning.

  • The drugs to watch: High-cost, high-use prescriptions like Humira, Enbrel and Revlimid. AbbVie hiked the price of Humira, the highest-selling drug in the world, by 19% over the 14-month period, and Amgen did the same for Enbrel. Celgene raised the list price of Revlimid by 20%.
  • The big one: SynerDerm, a prescription skin cream, had the largest price hike. Phlight Pharma, the maker of SynerDerm, raised the list price by 1,468% over the past 14 months.
  • The runners-up: A total of 39 drugs saw price hikes of at least 100%, although many of them — like anti-venom extracts — are rarely used and don’t cost the health care system much overall.

The impact: These increases, which can be found in an analysis by Pharmacy Benefits Consultants, are in the drugs’ list prices, before rebates and discounts are applied. People with insurance don’t pay these full amounts, but price hikes still affect everyone.

  • Copays and deductibles are often based on drugs’ list prices, and uninsured patients can find themselves on the hook for a drug’s entire list price.