Reviewing Cancer Rx Data Prior to ASCO

May 15, 2014
Prior to the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago, Express Scripts summarizes cancer pharmacy data and forecasts.
  • Cancer

In the coming weeks, researchers and clinicians will gather at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting to discuss clinical practices, new drugs and improving quality and safety of cancer.

New treatments have helped extend life expectancy and improve quality of life. But cost and complexity of treatment continue to be a challenge. 

Oncology Drug Trend

In 2013, cancer medications had the second highest increase in drug spending among specialty therapy classes, with double-digit percentage increases in both unit price and use. Today, the average cost per prescription for cancer medication is 22 times higher than in 1997.

Additional data reported in the 2013 Express Scripts Drug Trend Report follows:

  • Use of cancer medications within the pharmacy benefit rose 10.5% in 2013, accelerating from a 3.4% increase in 2012.
  • The prices of cancer drugs administered within the pharmacy benefit increased 13.6%, which was lower than the 25.8% increase in 2012.
  • Spending on specialty medications such as those for cancer will continue to increase at a faster rate than traditional therapy classes such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. By 2020, the cost of cancer care is expected to grow to $174 billion.

Driving Factors

The FDA approved eight new cancer therapies in 2013, contributing to increases in cost and use. Several breakthrough cancer therapies designed as oral treatments may reach the market in late 2014 or early 2015. 

Additionally, Express Scripts research found that 40.4% of patients undergoing cancer treatment are nonadherent to their medication therapy. Severe side effects and complicated regimens contribute to this challenge.

Study: Evidence and Effectiveness

With the costs for cancer treatment continuing to rise, Express Scripts researchers examined the relationship between breast cancer drug therapy based on established guidelines and cancer treatment costs. The study revealed that 1 in 5 patients receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer were treated off guideline. This contributed to additional costs of almost $8,000 per patient per year.

For cancer treatment, advocacy groups such as ASCO serve as important sources of unbiased, authoritative recommendations. Guidelines and clinical literature published by these organizations are updated continually with the goal of giving providers access to the best, most current scientific evidence of which to base their treatment decisions. 

Value of Clinical Specialization in Cancer Care

Specialty pharmacies such as Accredo can help reduce waste and ensure optimal outcomes. Decision support for physicians can reduce deviation from evidence-based treatment guidelines to less than 10%. Express Scripts research also shows that patients using a specialty pharmacy are 50% more likely to achieve optimum adherence to oral oncology medications.

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Lab Staff
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