The Official Medtipster Blog

have your healthcare and afford it, too
Subscribe

Drug Prices Up 3.5% For 2012

December 04, 2012 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: www.express-scripts.com, 11.28.12

According to the Express Scripts Prescription Price Index, prices on a market basket of the most highly utilized brand-name medications increased 13.3 percent from September 2011 to September 2012, far outpacing the overall economic inflation level of 2.0 percent. During the same timeframe, prices of generic medications declined 21.9 percent. This 35.2 percentage point net inflationary effect is the largest widening of brand and generic prices since Express Scripts began calculating its Prescription Price Index in 2008.

“The patent cliff has fueled a growing price disparity between brand-name and generic medications,” said Steve Miller, M.D., chief medical officer at Express Scripts. “The trend emphasizes the nation’s continued need for the tools we employ to help patients make better decisions, including generic use when appropriate.”

Drivers of Traditional Drug Trend

During the first three quarters of 2012, spending on traditional medications decreased 0.6 percent over the same period in 2011, primarily driven by lower prices brought on by increased use of generic medications.

The top traditional therapy class is mental and neurological disorders (including antidepressants), which now consumes 24.7 percent of all traditional drug spend. Although use of these medications has increased 3.1 percent compared to the first three quarters of 2011, total spending in this class is down 1.9 percent due to newly available generic antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Total spending on medications to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol decreased 7.7 percent, primarily driven by the continued impact of patent expirations for blockbuster drugs.

Drivers of Specialty Drug Trend

Specialty drug trend continues its year-over-year double-digit growth. During the first three quarters of 2012, spending on specialty medications increased 22.6 percent over the same period in 2011, primarily driven by unit cost increases. In the first nine months of 2012, specialty drug costs consumed 20.8 percent of total pharmacy spend.

“The continued rise in spend on specialty medications underscores the nation’s need to accelerate the pathway for biosimilars,” Dr. Miller said. “Additional competition within these therapy classes would provide a necessary market control against price inflation.”

The three therapy classes representing the largest amount of specialty drug spend continue to be rheumatoid arthritis/autoimmune conditions, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Medications commonly used to treat hepatitis C continue to have the largest specialty spend increase, 117.3 percent over the same period in 2011. Increased utilization is driving this trend, as new patients begin and continue treatment with one of two new medications.

Eight of the nine notable new medications approved in the third quarter are specialty medications. Many of these medications are second-line and third-line drugs indicated to treat advanced cancers.

Spotlight on Obesity Medications

The report reviews the two new anti-obesity medications approved this summer by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In clinical trials, many patients taking either of the new medications lost at least 5 percent of their body weight.

“The potential benefits of these new anti-obesity medications need to be compared against their risks and cost,” Dr. Miller said. “We are cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of these and other drugs like them, provided that they are prescribed appropriately and integrated with other lifestyle modifying programs that help patients make healthier choices that maintain their weight over time.”

Lipitor Goes Generic, As Good as Crestor, But Pfizer Markets to Extend Brand Revenues

December 12, 2011 By: Nadia Category: Cholesterol, HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: USA Today, 11/15/2011

On November 30, 2011, the cholesterol medication Lipitor (atorvastatin) converted to generic status. For the first six months, two companies, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories, Ltd., will produce the generic. After May 2012, several generic manufacturers are expected to enter the market.

Pfizer Inc., the maker of Lipitor is marketing hard for people to keep buying its brand-name version for the next 6 months. Pfizer is offering

  • patients a discount card to get Lipitor for $4 a month, and
  • rebates to insurance companies that cover Lipitor for the next 6 months.

This action by Pfizer will result in the costs of Lipitor being below generic prices and Pfizer will get 70% of the proceeds from one of the two versions sold now.

USA Today reported, that large doses of Lipitor and Crestor did about equally well according to a study of 1,385 patients presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando. Crestor, made by AstraZeneca, “will be the last major statin not on patent,” said Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study. “The market for Crestor will go close to zero.”

Study findings

At the end of the two-year study,

  • Two-thirds of patients had less plaque in their arteries.
  • Both statins shrunk the size of plaque in the coronary artery by about 1%.
  • Patients on Crestor had a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level of 63 milligrams per deciliter, while those who took Lipitor had a level of 70.
  • Patients on Crestor had a high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level of 50 milligrams per deciliter, compared to 49 for those who took Lipitor.

Nehal Mehta, a cardiologist with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, says there’s no way to know if such a small change actually matters, in terms of preventing heart attacks and saving lives. And relatively few patients would even benefit that much. Only about 20% of patients are taking such high doses — 40 milligrams daily of Crestor or 80 milligrams daily of Lipitor, says Mehta, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Such minor differences in cholesterol levels are unlikely to affect heart disease risk, Patterson says. “The bottom line is that there isn’t a difference” between drugs,” he says. “You should make your decision on other factors, like which one is least expensive.”

About Lipitor and Crestor

Cholesterol medications are the leading class of prescription drugs in the USA, with 255 million prescriptions a year. Lipitor — the country’s best-selling drug, with sales of $7.2 billion last year — will be available as a generic Dec. 1, at a fraction of its current cost. Patterson says there will be no reason for insurance plans to pay for Crestor — the eighth-leading drug in the USA, with $3.8 billion in annual sales. In fact, by next month, nearly all statins will be available generically. Generics now account for 78% of all retail prescriptions sold, according to IMS Health.

Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wpburn.com wordpress themes