KHN Morning Briefing

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Expensive Specialty Drugs Help Drive Up U.S. Drug Spending

After years of slower growth, drug spending rose a "remarkable" 12.6 percent in 2014, according to a new federal report.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Prescription Drug Spending Is On The Rise
Prescription drug spending in the U.S. is rising and is projected to continue to climb faster than overall health spending, federal officials said Tuesday. Drug spending rose an estimated sharp 12.6% in 2014 after years of unusually slow growth—it rose about 2% a year between 2008 and 2012. The increase is largely due to higher-priced specialty medications and the fact that millions of people have gained insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services. (Armour, 3/8)

Reuters: U.S. Health Agency Estimates 2015 Prescription Drug Spend Rose To $457 Billion
Spending on prescription drugs is projected to have risen to $457 billion in 2015 and will likely continue to grow as a percentage of overall healthcare spending, a U.S. government health agency said on Tuesday. ... The agency forecast that total drug spending will grow to $535 billion in 2018 and represent about 16.8 percent of all healthcare spending. The figures are based in part on National Health Expenditure Accounts estimates from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. (Humer, 3/8)

USA Today: Feds Call Prescription Drug Price 2014 Increase 'Remarkable'
Fast-rising drug prices coupled with the use of costlier specialty drugs were the main reasons for a nearly 13% uptick in prescription drug spending in 2014, federal health officials said Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services called drug growth in 2013 “subdued,” but said 2014’s increase was “remarkable” and that it remained elevated during 2015 based on preliminary estimates. (O'Donnell, 3/8)

STAT: Higher Prices, Changing Preferences Driving An Increase In Drug Spending
Rising prices and a shift toward more expensive medications are driving the increases in prescription drug spending, according to a new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services. ... In a statement, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, the main industry trade group, said the report overlooks the contribution of new medications that have helped people live longer lives. The report “ignores the tremendous value medicines provide to patients, including many that offer improved treatment options for conditions that previously had few or no options, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis,” said PhRMA spokeswoman Holly Campbell. (Scott, 3/8)

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is spending billions on ad buys —

STAT: Drug Spenders Now Spend $5 Billion A Year On Advertising. Here's What That Buys.
Under fire for spending so much on advertising, drug makers are doubling down. Even as politicians and physicians press for strict limits on prescription drug ads, the pharmaceutical industry is pouring billions into new TV and print campaigns. Ad spending soared more than 60 percent in the last four years, hitting $5.2 billion last year. (Robbins, 3/9)

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