Prescription drug spending for those with employer-sponsored insurance increased by 3.8% in 2016, compared with a rise of 5.2% in 2015, according to pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts.

Commercial plans managed by Express Scripts saw the cost of prescription drugs rise by 2.5% per person, while utilization was up by 1.3%, which adds up to the 3.8% overall increase. That represents a 27% drop from 2015, when drug costs rose 2.0% and use went up by 3.2%, Express Scripts said in its “2016 Drug Trend Report.”

Breaking down the cost by drug type, spending on specialty drugs – those that may have “frequent dosing adjustments or intensive clinical monitoring, intensive patient training and compliance assistance, limited distribution, and specialized handling or administration” – increased by 13.3% in 2016, which was the smallest rise since 2003. Spending on traditional drugs, which make up almost two-thirds of total spending, decreased by 1.0% in 2016, the report noted.

For a second consecutive year, patients of pharmacy plans managed by Express Scripts had a smaller out-of-pocket share of their total pharmacy costs, 14.6%, compared with 14.8% in 2015. That smaller share did represent an increase from $11.25 in 2015 to $11.34 in 2016, however, as the adjusted total cost per prescription rose from $75.85 to $77.84, Express Scripts said.

The company is the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the country, according to its corporate overview, processing 1.4 billion prescriptions annually for 85 million people.

rfranki@frontlinemedcom.com

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