Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Medicare doubled spending on hepatitis C drugs in 5 months

Federal officials have worried about the rising cost of specialty drugs for a long time. Now, a recent annual report from the Medicare Board of Trustees, which plots trends in spending on prescription drugs, validates these concerns, according to The Fiscal Times.
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.

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