The most expensive drugs


US report highlights the expensive new medications that may be heading our way

A lot of attention has recently been given to the economic impact on pharmacy’s stocking expensive new hepatitis C medicines.

However, if the United States provides an example of what may be heading our way, the pharmacy sector in Australia may have to prepare for many other such scenarios in the near future.

According to a US Medicaid report, “the launch of several expensive hepatitis C drugs over the past few years has ushered the topic of high cost prescription drugs back into the public’s and policymakers’ attention”.

Among the most commonly prescribed outpatient prescription drugs in Medicaid, the top five drugs are used for pain relief (hydrocodone-acetaminophen and ibuprofen), management of chronic illness (lisinopril and omeprazole), and antibiotics (amoxicillin). However, these drugs are not necessarily among the most costly used by Medicaid as many are inexpensive at the per prescription level.

Nearly three quarters of the 50 most costly drugs fall into five drug groups, the report reveals, of which the most prevalent is antivirals, which includes drugs used to treat HIV as well as hepatitis C drugs. 

Many of the most costly drugs have some form of regulatory and consequently market exclusivity, thus enabling the manufacturers to charge a premium price for the drug at the prescription level. Twenty two of the fifty most costly drugs are particularly expensive at the prescription level, including the most costly drug before rebates used by Medicaid over this period, Abilify (an atypical antipsychotic).

45 of the 50 most costly drugs fall into the high-cost category in part or primarily because they are frequently prescribed. Hydrocodone-acetaminophen and Suboxone, both opioids, a drug group which has garnered much public attention recently, fall into this category, as do several drugs used to treat ADHD.

The twelve costliest, in terms of total spend, are:

1 Abilify Antipsychotics/Antimanic Agent

2 Sovaldi Antiviral

3 Vyvanse ADHD/Anti-Narcolepsy/AntiObesity/Anorexiant

4 Harvoni Antiviral

5 Truvada Antivirals

6 Lantus Antidiabetic

7 Methylphenidate HCI ER  ADHD/Anti-Narcolepsy/AntiObesity/Anorexiants

8 Atripla Antivirals

9 Advair Diskus Antiasthmatic and Bronchodilator Agent

10 Lantus SoloStar Antidiabetics

11 Seroquel Antipsychotics/Antimanic Agents

12 Latuda Antipsychotics/Antimanic Agents

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1 Comment

  1. Troy
    21/07/2016

    Drugs are only expensive if the government buying them, is too lame to insist on a reasonable price. (that’s the Australian government) To be fair, however, the pharmacy bodies give our government little incentive to barter the manufacturers of these so-called ‘blockbuster’ drugs down in price. Why bother to do that, when you can simply pay less to the spineless pharmacists. They think that being ‘tough’ on the govt means requesting that the negotiators be taken to Sizzler instead of McDonald’s for dinner.

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