Despite Increased Copayments, CalPERS Sees Drug Costs Rise in Q1
The California Public Employees' Retirement System saw its costs for the most expensive brand-name drugs on its formulary increase in the first quarter of 2001, despite "dramatically" raising drug copayments for enrollees in February in hopes of reducing pharmacy bills this year by as much as $19.1 million, the Sacramento Bee reports. The agency spent $20.3 million on the 20 most costly drugs in the first quarter, after spending $72.5 million on the same drugs throughout all of 2000. But CalPERS spokesperson Pat Macht said the first-quarter results do not reflect the higher copayments, which rose from $5 to as much as $25 "for certain brand-name" drugs. Macht added, "We're hopeful we'll see an estimated 9% reduction in expenditures as consumers change their behavior." Industry experts, however, remain skeptical of CalPERS' goals, as drug costs nationwide are increasing by as much as 25% per year. Further, Merck Medco Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Epstein noted that the "lack of good substitutes for many commonly used brand-name drugs will hamper CalPERS' efforts to trim drug spending" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 5/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.