Report: U.S. spending on specialty drugs to increase substantially

May 21, 2013

Express Scripts report forecasts sharp increase in spending on specialty drugs.

Spending on drugs used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis will increase 67% by the end of 2015, according to a three-year forecast by Express Scripts.

The report attributes the expected increases to the robust pipeline of new biologics and to delayed treatment for patients by physicians who are waiting until the new drugs become available. Eight of the top 10 specialty drugs are expected to see sharp price increases, according to the report.

The highest increases are expected in drugs used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which the report predicted would outpace spending on all specialty drugs except those used to treat diabetes.

Look forward, act now

"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," said Glen Stettin, MD, Express Scripts’ senior vice president of clinical research and new solutions. "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."

More good news

The forecast also predicts that spending on hepatitis C drugs will quadruple over the next three years, while spending on drugs to treat diabetes will rise 24%.

The report did have some good news for consumers, forecasting that overall spending on traditional prescription drugs will decline 4% by the end of 2015 as a result of the availability of more generics.

In addition, once biosimilars start to reach the market, their presence may also help hold down expenses when the biologics they compete with go off patent.

According to a recent Express Scripts projection, if the 11 most likely products do become available in the United States, in the 10 years between 2014 and 2024, the country could save $250 billion.