BCBSA: Specialty drug spending rose 26 percent per member in 2014

Insurer costs for specialty drugs skyrocketed 26 percent per member between 2013 and 2014, or $87 per member for the year, according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and HealthCore Inc.

Increasing specialty drug costs were the main driver of spending growth by payers, the report found. The single largest increase was in hepatitis treatment at a whopping $612--or $29 per member--because of expensive new drugs including Sovaldi and Harvoni, according to the report.

Annual spending on specialty drugs was 17 percent higher per member in the individual market than in the employer market, according to an announcement. That was largely because of differences in utilization rates. Utilization rates were higher for cancer, viral infections and hepatitis.

The five highest-cost categories were drugs used for treating cancer, inflammatory conditions, multiple sclerosis, HIV and hepatitis, according to the report.

Greater competition and more choice, including speeding up approval for generics, would bring costs down, Trent Haywood, M.D., the association's chief medical officer, said in a prepared statement.

"There also should be transparency regarding the pricing of prescription medicines with information about price and a drug's effectiveness made widely available to the public," he said.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- check out the announcement