A study by one of the nation’s largest insurers found that its affiliates are spending 73 percent more on prescription drugs than in 2010, and the majority of those expenses are on brand drugs, despite a growing acceptance of generic drugs across the country, according to the Detroit News.
The study, released May 3 by the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, provided a seven-year analysis of prescription drug utilization, price changes and costs, and showed that drug prices have increased about 10 percent annually for the insurance group, which serves 106 million people nationally with about 4.5 million in Michigan.
Escalating drug prices have complicated the national debate over health care reform, and prompted calls to speed federal approval of generic alternatives to patented medications and make other reforms. Bipartisan legislation introduced March 30 in Lansing would add Michigan to a growing list of states that have passed laws requiring greater transparency about drug pricing.
The study found that much of the increase can be blamed on the high cost of proprietary “specialty” drugs for hard-to-treat conditions like Hepatitis C, cancer and some autoimmune disorders. But prices also have spiraled for brand name drugs used to treat chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, the study found.
Drug spending has increased for consumers, especially for brand name drugs. Consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for all prescriptions rose 3 percent annually over the time frame, and 18 percent annually for patented drugs, according to the study.
The cost of brand name drugs that have no generic alternative, also known as “single source” drugs, is responsible for the lion’s share of the increase in prescription spending, the study found. The cost of single-source drugs rose by 285 percent since 2010, or an average annual rate of about 25 percent. Though they comprise less than 10 percent of all prescriptions filled, patent-protected single-source drugs now make up 63 percent of total drug spending, the study determined.
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