Report: U.S. specialty-med spending on the rise

The age of the specialty drug is upon us. Spending on traditional meds may still be on the rise, but it's the complex treatments for multiple sclerosis, cancer, inflammatory conditions and other diseases that are really capturing the dollars, according to a new report from Express Scripts.

Branded drug prices grew by 9.6 percent overall last year. But specialty-drug spending grew by 19.6 percent. And while traditional branded meds had to fight cheaper generics--whose prices dropped by more than 10 percent--those specialty drugs generally have few to no generic rivals, and even with new legislation allowing for bioequivalent meds, remain very tough to copy.

In fact, Express Scripts estimates that specialty drugs will account for 40 percent of drug spending in the U.S. by 2014. No wonder, then, that so many drugmakers are targeting those specialty markets.

Another big growth area will continue to be diabetes, the pharmacy benefits manager said. The disease continues to grow more prevalent--and more diagnoses necessarily leads to more sales volume.

There is some hope for the budget-minded, however: Thanks to the steep decline in generics prices, overall drug spending in the U.S. grew by only 3.6 percent in 2010, compared with 6.4 percent in 2009.* And Express Scripts figures the U.S. could save more than $100 billion more by guiding patients toward generics and persuading them to comply with their prescription schedules.

- see the release from Express Scripts
- read the Reuters news

* Editor's Note: Story corrected to reflect the increase was 3.6 percent, not 2.6 as the story had earlier stated.