ST. LOUIS (AP) — Prescription drug spending growth last year mirrored 2011′s increase, but U.S. spending on traditional medicines for problems like high cholesterol fell for the first time in more than 20 years, according Express Scripts Holding Co.’s annual drug trend report.
Total spending grew 2.7 percent last year, as an 18.4 percent increase in specialty medication spending offset a 1.5 percent decrease for those traditional drugs.
Specialty drugs often require frequent dosing adjustments, more intensive clinical monitoring and specialized handling or administration. They can include treatments for multiple sclerosis and cancer.
They also include hepatitis C drugs, where two new treatments helped spending in that therapy class climb nearly 34 percent, according to Express Scripts (Nasdaq:ESRX), the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager.
An increase in cheaper generic equivalents to drugs like the cholesterol fighter Lipitor contributed to the spending decrease for traditional treatments. Generics have chipped away at revenue for drugstores and pharmacy benefits managers for several quarters since U.S. patents protecting the drugs expired.