Americans spent 34 percent more for specialty anti-inflammatory agents used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in 2005 than any other specialty drug category. The specialty anti-inflammatory class had the highest per-member per-year (PMPY) expense of all specialty classes, according to the Specialty Drug Trend Report from Express Scripts. The class, comprising four agents — Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, and Remicade — accounts for 19 percent of total specialty spending within the pharmacy benefit. Enbrel alone accounted for more than 75 percent of this cost.

In 2005, the class cost per prescription increased 9.4 percent and the PMPY cost was $9.36 according to the Express Scripts data.

This increase can be attributed to utilization growth, according to the report. Increases in utilization are due largely to earlier and longer treatment for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple indications also increase utilization. Medications in this therapy class are also used to treat conditions such as psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and Crohn's disease.

After anti-inflammatories, the class of drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis showed the next largest increase at 11.7 percent per prescription. Drugs in this class include Avonex, Copaxone, Rebif, Betaseron, and Tysabri.

Which specialty drug classes declined? Infertility drugs saw a 3.9 percent drop in utilization, as did antivirals, which were down 6.7 percent.

Enbrel dominates this therapy class

Projected expenditures for specialty medications, 2005 vs. 2009

Source: 2006 Express Scripts Specialty Drug Trend Report

Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.