Vizient: Drug prices for hospitals to increase 3% in 2022, with remdesivir topping adalimumab in total spend

Drug prices for hospitals are expected to increase by 3.09% in the coming year with newfound COVID-19 treatment remdesivir (Veklury) edging out longtime leader adalimumab (Humira) as hospitals’ top drug by total spend, according to a recent market outlook report from Vizient.

The purchasing group’s semiannual report projects pharmacy spending for its membership. More than half of the nation’s acute care providers employ Vizient's contract portfolio and other analytics and advisory services.

“Before COVID, we anticipated adalimumab would remain the top drug by total spend until biosimilars are introduced to bring in competition in 2023,” Dan Kistner, Vizient group senior vice president for pharmacy, said in a statement. “That remdesivir replaced it as the [number one] drug in total member spend across all classes of trade reflects how COVID has impacted hospitals and the unanticipated costs to their budgets.”

Remdesivir alone comprised 3.42%, more than $1 billion, of total Vizient member spend, according to the group’s report. It also led the way for anti-infective drugs, comprising 4% of total spend within the class and outstripping the second product, rifaximin (Xifaxan), by a factor of 10.

Another sign of a pandemic-impacted spending trend was the rise of tocilizumab (Actemra), which is also used to treat COVID-19 patients, to the tenth spot by total Vizient member spend, according to the report.

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The “moderate” 3.09% drug price increase Vizient is projecting will occur between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, and represents a push and pull between the increased utilization of high-cost products and the arrival of new lower-cost biosimilars, the group wrote in the report.

Despite falling to the second slot in total Vizient member spent, adalimumab was still the largest contributor to projected drug price increases as its “remaining months of exclusivity will contribute to ongoing costs until launch of the many pending adalimumab biosimilars,” Vizient wrote. The anti-inflammatory had held the top overall spend position since 2012.

The other noteworthy call-out in Vizient’s report was pembrolizumab (Keytruda). The oncology drug is expected to be the second leading contributor to price growth through June 2023 and is anticipated to gain ground across other indications based on the results of “a multitude” of ongoing clinical trials, Vizient wrote.

Any word of drug price inflation is unlikely to be welcomed by hospitals already fending off a pandemic spike in supply costs.

Per Kaufman Hall’s industry report for the omicron-heavy month of December, hospitals’ drug expenses had increased 20.1% year to date and 28.2% year to date since 2019. These expenses, along with the rising costs of labor, have kept hospitals’ margins thin despite recovering volumes and revenues.