If you look hard enough, you’ll find valuable insights into our changing industry, along with data on 2013’s drug trend (the change in prescription drug expenditures of a third-party payer). Here are my highlights:
- Drug trend for traditional drugs increased by 2.4%, a big turnaround from last year’s -1.5% decline.
- Drug trend for specialty drugs increased by 14.1%, its lowest rate since 2007.
- Specialty drugs accounted for 27.7% of total spending, up from 24.4% in 2012.
- Specialty spending remains highly concentrated within four therapy classes.
Drug trend—the change in prescription drug expenditures of a third-party payer—has two primary components:
- Unit costs—the payer’s cost per unit of therapy. Unit costs vary with: 1) inflation in drug prices, 2) shifts to different drug options within a therapeutic class, 3) a shift in mix of therapeutic classes utilized by plan members, and 4) the substitution of generic drugs for brand-name drugs.
- Utilization—the total quantity of drugs that plan members obtain. Utilization varies with: (1) the number of plan members on drug therapy, (2) plan members’ adherence to their drug therapy, and (3) a change in the average number of days of treatment.
Other PBMs use different definitions, as I noted last year in Is Caremark Really Better Than Express Scripts At Managing Drug Trend? I’ll update my comparison after other PBMs release their reports,.
Here’s the report’s summary of 2013 commercial drug trend components. (Medicare and Medicaid trends are reported separately. PMPY = per member, per-year)
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- Drug trend for traditional drugs increased 2.4%, due largely to fewer new generic drug launches. Utilization increased by only 0.5%, but unit costs increased by 1.9%.
- Drug trend for specialty drugs was 14.1%, its lowest rate since 2007. Express Scripts’ explanation: “[F] ewer new medications were approved than in 2012.” The real cause, however, is slower cost growth. Utilization increased by 1.5%, compared with a 0.4% decrease in 2012. Costs increased by a comparatively low 11.6%, compared with 18.7% in 2012.
- Specialty spending was 27.7% of total pharmacy benefit spending, up from 24.4% in 2012.
- Specialty spending remains highly concentrated, when compared with spending for traditional drugs. For specialty drugs, treatments for the top four conditions—inflammatory conditions, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and HIV—accounted for 72% of total per-member, per-year (PMPY) spend. For traditional drugs, however, treatments for the top four conditions—diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure/heart disease, and ulcer disease—accounted for only 34% of total PMPY spend.
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Just my $0.02, but the new report’s technical presentation trended down this year.
Previously, readers could download the whole report. In fact, Express Scripts has helpfully provided a page for downloading all previous reports.
This year, Express Scripts broke their long, dense trend report into more than 100 individual web pages. I hope you have some time, because each page must be loaded separately. While it’s easier to link to specific sections, you will find it essentially impossible to read or search the report quickly.
The site is also slow, buggy, and counter-intuitive.
- Want to save something to a PDF? Good luck. The formatted pages become raw text with incoherent formatting. The print version also drops sentences from the text. When I tried to print to a PDF from Internet Explorer, my browser crashed.
- Pages are formatted in columns, but you must scroll to the left (not down) to read a full page. I’m sure this works wonderfully on an iPad, but it’s much less fun on a non-touchscreen laptop.
- When I used the search function, I got the mystifying message: “The service is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.” So, I tried again later, and got headline panels that failed to show my search term in context. (Nerds like me switch to Google site search.)