Biggest increases in specialty drug costs seen in rheumatologic, cancer, and hemophilia agents

Although the number of prescriptions filled for many high-tech specialty drugs for multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer is relatively low, the cost of these drugs is significant, ranging from as low as $6,000 to as much as $350,000 a year. That’s right, a year. In Medco’s Drug Trend Report 2004, we read that the cost increases for specialty drugs targeting rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and hemophilia are significant.

Medco reports that of the top seven contributors to specialty drug costs, agents for rheumatologic conditions (80.6 percent), cancer (33.2 percent), and hemophilia (28.4 percent) demonstrated the greatest percent change in cost from 2002 to 2003.

The increases were moderate for multiple sclerosis medications (13.5 percent) and hepatitis C medications (3.1 percent) during that period.

Specialty drugs accounted for 5.6 percent of total pharmacy spending in 2003, up from 4.9 percent in 2002.

Most of the spending on specialty drugs was concentrated in a few therapeutic areas — multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, cancer, and growth hormone deficiency.

Percent increase in cost and utilization for specialty drugs (2002 vs. 2003)

Note: Therapeutic classes are ranked from the largest contributor to health plan cost to the smallest contributor. Trend is the amount of change in spending. Unit cost is cost per day.

Source: Medco Drug Trend Report 2004