The report shows that despite continued growth in the use of cholesterol drugs, spending fell 8.5 percent in 2007 as usage of lower-cost generic Pravachol and Zocor increased. Meanwhile, spending on diabetes drugs increased 12 percent due to shifts toward higher-cost meds, brand-name drug price inflation and moderate growth in the number of patients receiving treatment. Here's the link to the chart to the left.
Other findings: Drug spending rose 12.3 percent in 2007, with specialty drugs accounting for 11.4 percent of all pharmacy plan spending, up 10.4 percent, thanks to autoimmune conditions, cancer, multiple sclerosis and respiratory conditions. Spending on cancer drugs is expected to increase 46 to 53 percent through 2010 on a compounded basis, driven by treatments with monthly costs that can exceed $10,000, according to Medco.
Saftey concerns had a "significant bearing" on spending and utilization on antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, and specialty anemia treatments, Medco reports. Safety warnings on Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp, which are used to treat anemia in patients with cancer or kidney disease, led to a 15.1 percent drop in spending on this class of drugs.
A drop in spending on antidepressants of 8.4 percent reflects a decline in unit costs with generic versions of Zoloft and Wellbutrin XL entering the market. Meanwhile, the use of antidepressants increased slowly during 2007, reflecting concerns about warnings in 2005 associated with possible risk of suicidality in children and young adults, according to Medco.
And the use of hormone replacement therapy has been on the decline over the past six years over health risk concerns that emerged when the Women's Health Initiative first reported an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in 2002. Last year, usage fell an additional 9.2 percent.