Rate of Increase in Expenditures on Prescription Drugs Down for First Quarter
The rate of increase in first quarter prescription drug expenditures decreased to 11.3% from 16.9% a year earlier, according to a survey of Express Scripts members released today by the pharmacy benefit manager, the New York Times reports. Express Scripts attributed the decrease in part to the availability of more generic medications and the switch of the allergy treatment Claritin to over-the-counter status. Express Scripts officials said that generic medications accounted for 47% of the prescriptions processed by the company in the first quarter, compared to from 43% a year earlier. In addition, "unusual" conditions, such as mild weather, led to decreased sales of cold and flu medications, and negative media reports about hormone replacement therapy may have contributed to decreased sales of HRT, Express Scripts said. The company also said employers that raised employee copayments for some expensive medications experienced a larger moderation in prescription drug expenditures. However, the price of prescription drugs increased 7.5% in the first quarter; the inflation rate increased 2.4% over the same period, according to the survey (Freudenheim, New York Times, 6/3). Express Scripts expects prescription drug expenditures to increase 15% for the year, compared to 18.5% in 2002. Last year, prescription drug expenditures -- the "primary driver of spiraling health care costs" -- increased to $585.50 per member per year in 2002, compared to $494.20 in 2001, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Agovino, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/2). Express Scripts also predicts that the use of generic and nonprescription medications will increase in the next 18 months, with several patent monopolies on some important treatments scheduled to expire (New York Times, 6/3).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.