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Diabetes Drugs Emerge as Top Force in Drug Spending Growth
Date:5/15/2008

nt regimens with monthly costs that can exceed $10,000.

Specialty drug utilization increased 3.9 percent in 2007. This increase stemmed from the introduction of new specialty medications, new indications for drugs currently on the market, and a wider use of multiple-drug therapy for some conditions. A portion of the utilization growth reflects client efforts to shift some specialty drug coverage to the pharmacy benefit rather than under major medical insurance, a move that can help control costs.

Drug safety concerns cause declines

Health risks from prescription drugs had a significant bearing on spending and utilization on antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy and specialty anemia treatments:

* Safety warnings on Procrit(R), Epogen(R) and Aranesp(R) -- a group of

drugs designed to improve red blood cell counts -- have led to a 15.1

percent drop in spending in this category. These drugs are often used

to treat anemia in patients with cancer or kidney disease, but a study

showed these drugs may be detrimental in many patients with these

conditions;

* An 8.4 percent decrease in spending on antidepressants reflects a

decline in unit costs with generic versions of Zoloft(R) and Wellbutrin

XL(R) entering the market. The use of antidepressants increased slowly

during 2007, which may continue to reflect concerns about the possible

risk of suicidality in children and young adults that surfaced in 2005

with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings;

* Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been on the decline over

the past six years over health risk concerns, and it fell an additional

9.2 percent in 2007. The Women's Health Initiative first reported

increased risk of heart attack and stroke in 2002.

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