Patients see sharp increase in price of specialty drugs

Patients Paying Much More for Specialty Drugs
Patients Paying Much More for Specialty Drugs

(HealthDay News) -- Many Americans are paying less for prescription drugs, but some are having to deal with sharp rises in the cost of specialty medicines for rare or serious diseases, according to a new report.

On average, more than half of prescriptions cost patients less than $5 in out-of-pocket costs in 2013, and generic drugs were used to fill 86 percent of those prescriptions, according to the drug research firm IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Twenty-three percent of prescriptions carried no out-of-pocket costs, which the authors said is likely due to free coverage of birth control drugs provided under the Affordable Care Act, The New York Times reported.

But expenses rose for people who require costlier drugs, with 2.3 percent of such prescriptions accounting for 30 percent of all out-of-pocket costs in 2013, according to the IMS paper. Higher prices for specialty drugs helped push total prescription drug spending up by 3.2 percent in 2013, to $329.2 billion. The introduction of several new generic drugs in 2012 helped push overall drug spending down by 1 percent in 2012, The Times reported.

As a growing number of generic medicines become available, drug makers have increasingly focused on developing drugs for less common and more complex diseases. In 2013, 36 new drugs were introduced, including treatments for cancer, hepatitis C, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Those new drugs also included 17 for diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. "The new drugs coming to market are more specialized, and more tailored to smaller populations of patients, which tends to make them more expensive because fewer people are ultimately going to take them," Caroline Pearson, vice president at the health care consulting firm Avalere Health, told The Times.

Health Highlights: April 15, 2014

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