March 24, 2015

Responding to the Impact of Specialty Drugs


Recent drug trend studies report that specialty and compounded drugs are increasing group health costs, citing that the overall national prescription drug spending increased over 13% last year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 27 drugs, of which 19 were specialty drugs, in 2013. This year, the FDA has approved 44 drugs (an 18-year high) and specialty drugs are also expected to increase. As with most trends, the increase in spend is most likely to be reflected in workers’ compensation as well.

Increases in pharmacy spend due to drug sales are not a new phenomenon. In January 2014, there was a spike in pharmacy drug costs attributed to a new hepatitis C drug – a specialty drug. While specialty treatments are typically meant for rare conditions, they can be expensive and sometimes a single injured worker can have a major influence an entire program’s spend.

Specialty drugs are used to treat complex or rare conditions, consist of complicated treatment regimens, often have limited availability, expensive and sometimes have compliance issues.

Read more about specialty drugs and compounds in CorVel's whitepaper "Monitoring Compounds in Workers' Compensation."