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In 2006, specialty drugs were the largest category driving drug cost and utilization trends, contributing more to spending growth than diabetes medications and lipid-lowering drugs combined. According to Medco’s 2007 Drug Trend Report, specialty drugs were a substantial component of the top 10 trend drivers, with oncologic and rheumatologic drugs, and multiple sclerosis treatments making a substantial contribution to the trend.
Cancer treatment costs emerged as the greatest driver of the specialty trend, with growth fueled by price inflation and shifts in product mix. New, higher-cost therapies, such as sorafenib (nexavar) and sunitinib (Sutent), were significant contributors to the rapid increase in average treatment cost. Last year also saw particularly high unit-cost growth (27 percent) for cancer treatments, while utilization of these therapies was comparatively moderate (8.6 percent).
Increased dose frequency, new indications, and expanded off-label use contributed to costs related to increased utilization (10.5 percent) of rheumatologic medications, while unit cost in this category increased 4.7 percent. Price inflation for leading MS products led to a 14.2 percent rise in unit costs, while utilization-related costs increased at a minimal 0.6 percent rate.