In particular, new, expensive treatments for hepatitis C are accounting for an increasingly large portion of Medicare expenditures on prescription drugs.
According to the Medicare report, the federal agency spent $97 billion on seniors in 2014, or 16 percent of total Medicare spending that year, The Fiscal Times reported. Spending on treatments for hepatitis C doubled in five months from $421 million in November 2014 — just after the first of the new drugs entered the market — to $864 million in March 2015. By the middle of 2015, spending on the medications plateaued at $793 million.
However, officials are preparing for another uptick in spending as more patients seek prescriptions for the drugs.
Recently released medications for hepatitis C — a virus that affects at least 2.7 million Americans and accounted for 19,000 deaths in 2014 — can cost nearly $100,000. Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences was the first drugmaker to introduce cures for the disease. Its Solvadi and Harvoni treaments were released in December 2013. Retail prices for the pills are $1,000 and $1,200 for the pills, costing between $83,000 and $95,000 for a full treatment, according to the report.
Since 2014, the FDA has approved other highly effective hepatitis C treatments, including another, less expensive one from Gilead, as well as others from AbbVie, Merck & Co., and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
Looking ahead, officials expect spending on Medicare Part D to grow at a rate of 9.2 percent in the next decade, compared to a growth rate of 7.4 percent in the past 10 years, according to the report.