PHARMACY

Study finds specialty drug costs increase 15% annually

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN DIEGO — Specialty drugs are expected to account for 50% of all drug costs by 2018, according to two new studies.

By contrast, specialty drugs accounted for 20% of all drug costs in 2009, but increased to 28.7% by 2012. Pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota conducted the studies, and Prime is presenting them Tuesday at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy’s 25th annual meeting and expo in San Diego.

"The increasing rate of specialty drugs expenses is due to increased non-specialty generic use; expected continued pharmaceutical, manufacturer, annual, double-digit price increases; increasing specialty drug use and future pipeline of new specialty drugs," Prime director of health outcomes Patrick Gleason said.

The studies, based on pharmacy and medical claims from 1.2 million commercially insured and continuously enrolled members receiving a drug for hepatitis C or rheumatoid arthritis, focused on cost-of-care trends for the two disease states.

In one, researchers found that despite use of specialty drugs for hepatitis C decreasing from 17.2% to 14.1% between 2008 and 2011, the compound annual growth rate during that time was 15%, and specialty drug costs accounted for $13,332 of the total $38,055 cost for hepatitis C care in 2008; by 2011, that figure had risen to $30,415 of $57,799.

The other study found that rheumatoid arthritis drug use rose from 34.6% to 35.4% between 2008 and 2010, with a compound annual growth rate in the cost of care of 7.3%. All other medical costs were $11,252 in 2008 and $13,710 in 2010, and combined medical and specialty drug costs for the disease accounted for $16,218 of $29,652, or 54.7%, in 2008. In 2010, the percentage was lower, at 53%, though costs accounted for $18,098 of $34,163.

"These studies show the RA and hep C pharmacy costs now go beyond all medical costs, therefore the expected medical savings cannot offset the specialty drug investment," Gleason said. "As pharmacy benefit managers and health plans strive to work to improve the quality of care for individuals with specialty drug needs, the expected increases in cost of care can be lessened through specialty pharmacy management programs."


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APhA, Cardinal Health Foundation name second annual APhA GenerationRx Award of Excellence recipient

BY Michael Johnsen

LOS ANGELES — During the American Pharmacists Association’s 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition here, the Cardinal Health Foundation and APhA on Tuesday awarded the second annual APhA GenerationRx Award of Excellence to Anthony Tommasello, who was chosen in recognition of his work in the area of substance abuse education. Throughout his career, Tommasello has conducted research and provided education to a wide range of patient populations at risk for substance abuse.

"We believe that pharmacists and student pharmacists can play an important role in helping parents, educators, community leaders and teens better understand the dangers of prescription drug abuse," stated Dianne Radigan, VP Cardinal Health Foundation. "We’re pleased to work in collaboration with APhA to recognize the work Dr. Tommasello and these student chapters have done to help prevent prescription drug abuse."

APhA also awarded the third annual APhA-ASP Generation Rx Awards, which recognize use of the GenerationRx toolkit, a communications package including talking points, presentation materials and tips to enable users to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse in their communities. This award is part of a competition among the 128 APhA Academy of Student Pharmacist Chapters. The 2012 national awards were presented to the top three chapters, which were: The University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The awards mark a continuation of the APhA and Cardinal Health Foundation partnership to prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription medications.


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Infants receive GERD medication more often than necessary, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease are frequently overtreated in infants, according to a new study by researchers in Michigan and Missouri.

The study, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that doctors often diagnose such common symptoms in infants as crying and spitting up as disease, and frequent diagnoses of GERD can lead to overuse of medications to treat it, said the researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Missouri.

"As doctors, we need to appreciate that the words we use when talking with patients and parents have power — the power to make a normal process seem like a disease," University of Michigan professor of pediatrics Beth Tarini said. "As pediatricians, our job is to make sick children healthy, not to make healthy children sick."

The researchers surveyed parents at a pediatric clinic in Michigan about how they would respond in a hypothetical scenario: An infant is crying and spitting up but appears otherwise healthy, and the doctor either gives a diagnosis of GERD or gives none. Half the parents also were told that existing medications are probably ineffective, while the rest are not given information about medication effectiveness.

The researchers found that parents who received a GERD diagnosis were interested in giving their infants medication, even when told the medications were ineffective. Those not given a disease label only expressed interest in prescriptions when the doctor did not discuss whether or not the medication was effective.

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