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Mail Service and Higher Generic Use Helps Keep Spending in Check, Countering Brand Drug Price Inflation and Specialty Medication Growth
Date:5/13/2009

omprehensive analysis of prescription drug spending and utilization. Other key drivers of prescription growth were rheumatological, seizure, antiviral and cancer drugs.

Specialty drugs propelled growth. This group of drugs showed a 15.8 percent rise in drug spend. If specialty drugs were excluded, overall drug trend would have been 1.3 percent. New products and the absence of a regulatory approval process for lower cost generic versions of specialty drugs have fueled spending growth in this category. Bills have been recently introduced in Congress to create a regulatory pathway for biosimilars -- versions of biologic pharmaceuticals that could eventually reduce these costs.

Recessionary pressures propel generic and mail order use

According to the report, which is statistically representative of the company's more than 60 million covered members, the weakened economy moderated prescription drug spending as consumers were increasingly motivated to use lower-cost alternatives, as clinically appropriate. In addition to a higher generic dispensing rate, clients whose members used mail-order pharmacy more than 40 percent of the time experienced negative drug trend -- their drug costs, on average, actually declined year-over-year. Overall unit costs for medications increased 4.4 percent, since generic drug prices offset some of the brand-name drug price inflation.

Over the next five years, brand-name drugs with more than $66 billion in annualized sales are scheduled to lose patent protection and face competition from generic introductions. The 2009 Medco Drug Trend Report projects spending growth of 4 percent to 7 percent annually through 2011, or an aggregate of 14.7 percent to 18.0 percent over the three-year period. Generic drugs should help to mitigate spending through this period, but growth is expected to resume as specialty drugs and new treatments paired with genetic screening make
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SOURCE Medco Health Solutions, Inc.
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