Prescription Drug Costs Rose at Lower rate in 2003 Because of Increased Use of Generic Medications, Study Finds
The increased availability of generic drugs, together with changes to drug benefit plans that encouraged generic use, "took the edge off rising drug prices" in 2003, according to a national study released Tuesday by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, the Boston Herald reports. The study found that the average cost per prescription rose 7.9% last year to $51.76, compared with a 13.1% rise in 2002. Increased generic sales drove the trend, although reductions were "offset somewhat" by the cost of new injectable drugs for conditions such as cancer, arthritis and psoriasis, the Herald reports. Total drug spending rose 15.5% in 2003, compared with an 18.5% increase in 2002. The study found that drug costs last year increased 10.4% for insurers that used drug management programs such as three-tiered copayment plans. The demand for prescription drugs rose last year, but it was lower than expected because of the over-the-counter availability of the allergy drug Claritin and a sharp drop in hormone replacement therapy sales because of new studies linking HRT to increased disease risk, according to Brian Kolling, Express Scripts senior director of emerging therapeutics. "It's the lowest [cost increase] rate we've seen in a while," Kolling said, adding, "We're starting to really see the power of generics." The study predicts that the outlook for next year is "even better," with an anticipated total drug spending increase of 14.1% -- lower than this year's increase in part because of the expected FDA approval of generic versions of the antidepressant Celexa, antibiotic Cipro and Flonase allergy nasal spray, the Herald reports (Heldt Powell, Boston Herald, 6/9).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.