Specialty drug spending rises 26%; hepatitis spending up nearly 600% — 6 key takeaways from a BCBS study

In "The Growth in Specialty Drug Spending from 2013 to 2014" report, Blue Cross Blue Shield found annual spending on specialty pharmacy drugs rose by $87 per member in 2014, up 26 percent from 2013.

Here are six takeaways from the report.

1. Annual specialty drug spending was 17 percent higher per member in the individual market in 2014 compared to the employer market.

2. BCBS members spent nearly $14.6 billion on specialty pharmacy drugs for the top 15 drug categories in 2013. Of that figure, nearly two-thirds of the cost was used to treat cancer, inflammatory conditions as well as multiple sclerosis.

3. Of the 15 drug categories, spending increased 26 percent, reaching $18.4 billion in 2014.

4. Spending increased in every drug category and increased the most in hepatitis spending. In 2014, hepatitis spending rose 612 percent as a result of new drugs.

5. Of the 26 percent increase in specialty drug spending, 15 percent is due to higher treatment costs. Drug utilization accounted for an 11 percent rise in specialty pharmacy drug spending.

6. The Middle Atlantic and New England region had the highest amount of spending per member ($478) in 2014, and the West South Central region had the lowest ($383 per member).

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