ORLANDO, Fla. — Cancer drugs are expected to see sharp increases in spending and use by 2013, according to the latest drug trend report by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions.
The overall drug trend for 2010 was 3.7%, lowered by higher rates of generic drug dispensing; more than 71% of drugs dispensed were generics. Specialty drugs, mostly branded biologics, accounted for 70.1% of the overall drug trend, with especially strong growth in cancer drugs, whose drug trend reached 21.2%.
Expensive new drugs for treating cancer could drive spending by as much as 15% over the next three years, likely making them the second- or third-largest trend-driving drug category by 2015, according to the report, behind only drugs for diabetes and central nervous system disorders. Much of the demand for new cancer drugs comes from better detection, leading to a rise in reported cases of the disease.
“New cancer drugs reaching the market are expected to double during the next several years,” Medco chief medical officer Glen Stettin said. “Early diagnosis, evidence-based treatment and enhanced coordinated care have essentially turned some forms of the condition into chronic illnesses that can be managed longer-term. Continued innovation, including companion diagnostic or pharmacogenomic testing, can help ensure the right person is getting the right drug at the proper dose and reduce waste.”
Newly introduced drugs for cancer increased inflation in the category to 11.5% last year, and according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, more than 90% of cancer drugs approved since 2004 cost more than $20,000 for a 12-week course of therapy. Higher prescribing of drugs, such as Celgene’s multiple myeloma treatment Revlimid (lenalidomide) and Novartis’ leukemia and gastrointestinal tumor drug Gleevec (imatinib mesylate), drove the increases. Medco noted that many of the newer drugs are oral medications that patients can administer by themselves, thus changing the dynamic of cancer care delivery toward the home instead of physicians' offices and infusion centers.
“It’s an exciting time in the area of cancer treatment, but as these new, targeted treatments come to market, it is vital to ensure that each patient and caregiver understands the importance of adherence and the detailed dosing instructions associated with them,” Medco Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center national practice leader Milayna Subar said.
Despite the higher trend in cancer drugs, drugs for diabetes have continued to drive drug trend for the fourth year in a row as the largest therapeutic category driving overall spending growth, with a drug trend of 7.6%. The large number of diabetes patients — which most experts expect to significantly grow over the next several years — resulted in the category contributing nearly 17% of the overall growth in drug spending in 2010.
“Demand for these diabetes drugs as a category remains unabated as America struggles with what has become a worldwide epidemic,” Stettin said. “The number of people in the U.S. being treated for diabetes is expected to increase from nearly 25 million today to 44 million by 2035.”