Employers have drug costs on their minds lately. Balancing the cost of drugs against care has swelled as the key consideration for companies evaluating drug plans in a survey by Express Scripts.
Where 5 years ago only 41% of respondents said "balancing cost with care" was their main concern, now that number is 78%, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, where 57% said "providing the broadest coverage" was the most important measure 5 years ago, now only 14% of respondents think that is the main deal.
How companies and their benefit managers structure prescription drug benefits can have a big impact on the pharmaceutical industry. And they have been taking aggressive steps to keep on top of prices. A coalition of unions and a consumer group recently sued 8 of the largest companies, including Pfizer ($PFE), Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), for using coupons to try to lure patients away from generics.
And companies are thinking hard about things like the cost of specialty drugs, the high-priced medications often used for the most serious conditions like cancer or rheumatoid arthritis. While only 36% of plan managers said specialty drugs are their key concern, the drugs are the primary concern for 58% of companies with more than 25,000 employees.
There is a reason specialty drug costs are on employers' minds, Tim Wentworth, Express Scripts' president of sales and account management, tells Reuters. While they make up less than 30% of what a company is spending on drugs, they are the fastest-growing segment in terms of cost. Last year, spending on medications grew 2.7% while spending on specialty drugs was up 17.1%, he said. It is the fastest-growing segment, "so they want to put things in place now," he says.
One way to do that is with step therapy, requiring plan members to try the low-cost drug before moving to another medication. Most companies expect to institute such a plan within two years, the survey found.
- read the Reuters story