Report: U.S. Spending on Traditional Prescription Drugs Fell in 2012

A report from pharmacy benefit management company Express Scripts (NASDAQ: ESRX  ) released today shows that in 2012, American spending on traditional prescription medications, such as pills for high blood pressure and similar common ailments, declined. The 1.5% decrease among insured Americans was the first fall in such spending in more than 20 years.

However, while spending on traditional prescriptions fell, spending on specialty medications -- such as therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, and cancer -- grew by 18.4% among the insured population. That offset the fall in traditional prescriptions and helped send total prescription drug spending up by 2.7% in 2012, similar to 2011's total growth rate, according to the report.

Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts' senior vice president of clinical, research and new solutions, was quoted in the press release as saying, "The first-ever decrease in traditional drug spending is the latest chapter of an ongoing success story for our utilization management programs and for an increased interest in generic medications, home delivery pharmacy and more focused retail pharmacy networks."

Among traditional prescription drugs, diabetes prescription therapy spending rose 11% in 2012. That marks the second consecutive year in which the country spent more on prescription drugs for diabetes than for any other therapy class, according to Express  Scripts, which noted unit cost increases for popular insulins.

Attention disorder therapies saw growth of more than 14%. Among all drugs, hepatitis C medications saw the highest spending hike, growing by 33.7% last year.

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