Express Scripts says cost of branded drugs in US rose nearly 11 percent last year

According to a report released by Express Scripts on Monday, the average list price of the most commonly used branded drugs in the US increased nearly 11 percent in 2016. However, the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) noted that it was able to hold the 2016 growth rate in prescription drug spending to 3.8 percent, a 27 percent decrease from the prior year, with costs for employers up just 2.5 percent across all prescription medicines.

"In a year where the issue of high drug prices was No. 1 on the list of payer and policy maker concerns, the data show that our solutions protected our clients and patients," commented Glen Stettin, chief innovation officer at Express Scripts. The company indicated that patients of pharmacy plans it manages paid 14.6 percent of the total cost of a prescription medication in 2016, versus 14.8 percent in the previous year.

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In an effort to tackle the rising cost of prescription drugs, Express Scripts launched the Inflammatory Conditions Care Value Program last year, aimed at reducing costs and improving care in the treatment of inflammatory conditions. Express Scripts noted Monday that one of every five dollars spent on prescription drugs was for medication to treat an inflammatory condition or diabetes. The PBM said that AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab) and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept) were major trend drivers for the class, with unit cost increases between 10 percent and 18 percent in 2016.

"Rebates do not raise drug prices, drugmakers do," remarked Stettin. Last week, US President Donald Trump called the prices of prescription medicines "astronomical," adding that he will begin efforts to "get the prices down." Some pharmaceutical companies have already pledged to limit price rises on their products, with Allergan and Novo Nordisk both targeting annual increases of less than 10 percent.

For related analysis, read ViewPoints: Parsing industry’s immediate reactions to President Trump's biopharma roundtable.

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