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Cancer Drugs Emerging as Top Driver of Specialty Drug Spending
Date:10/8/2009

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Cancer treatments are on track to become the biggest driver of specialty pharmacy spending as its contribution to overall drug spending hit five percent for the first time in the first half of 2009, according to Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MHS). Oncology specialty drug spending increased 15.1 percent last year, trailing only medications for autoimmune conditions and multiple sclerosis as a specialty drug growth driver. Driven by medications that can cost tens of thousands of dollars per course of therapy and a deep pipeline of new targeted products with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy, worldwide sales of these medications are expected to reach $80 billion by 2012.

"Targeted cancer therapies have dramatically reshaped oncology and greatly benefited cancer patients," said Dr. Robert S. Epstein, Medco's chief medical officer. "The newer cancer drugs improve survival rates since they target what fuels the cancer's growth. As some may extend life, they may be used for longer periods of time and improve quality of life for millions of patients. Due to the higher costs of these treatments, however, proper selection and dosing is extremely important."

Combinations of oral oncology drugs and injectable monoclonal antibodies from the biotech industry are big drivers of drug spending and this trend is likely to continue as existing treatments gain additional approvals and new drugs reach the market.

Presently more than 800 drugs are under investigation for treatment of cancer, which is expected to be diagnosed 1.48 million times this year. Early detection and more effective, well-tolerated medications are allowing some cancers to behave like chronic diseases. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer patients today are living longer than a generation ago with the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined between 1996-2004 reach
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SOURCE Medco Health Solutions, Inc.
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