Issue: December 2016
November 17, 2016
2 min read

CMS: Harvoni Outpaces Other Drugs in Total Spending

Issue: December 2016
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Harvoni was the single drug with the highest total spending by Medicaid in 2015, surpassing Abilify — treatment for depression and other illnesses — CMS announced on its official blog.

Through a new online interactive tool that tracks the price of drugs purchased for Medicare beneficiaries, Andy Slavitt, acting CMS administrator, Niall Brennan, CMS chief data officer and Tim Gronniger, CMS deputy chief of staff — authors of the blog — calculated “significant growth” in spending on prescription drugs, including Harvoni, which has led to increased burden on families and programs.

“In 2015, total prescription costs were estimated to have been $457 billion, or 16.7% of personal health care spending,” the authors wrote. “This is up from $367 billion, or 15.4% of personal health care spending in 2012.”

The authors stated the annual growth is expected to average 6.7% annually through 2025, with those increasing costs expected to continue pressure on families and programs covering prescription drugs.

Harvoni (sofosbuvir/ledipasvir, Gilead Sciences) and Lantus (insulin glargine injection, Sanofi) were the top two Medicare Part D drugs and were each associated with more than $1 billion in Medicaid spending. In 2015, Medicare spent $7 billion on Harvoni compared with less than $1 billion in 2014, the year it was approved. The FDA approved Harvoni for the treatment of HCV in October 2014.

Rounding out the top five Medicare Part D drugs with highest total spending were Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium, AstraZeneca), Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate/salmeterol, GlaxoSmithKline) and Spiriva (tiotropium bromide, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals); each individually accounted for more than $2 billion in gross spending in Part D in 2015.

The data do not include rebate information that Medicare may receive from pharmaceutical manufacturers; however, the tool does include an aggregated summary of Medicare Part D manufacturer rebate information for several broad categories of brand name drugs in 2014.

Using this interactive tool — launched in 2015 — CMS hopes to keep the public informed by enabling them to view drugs in Medicare Part B and D with high spending on a per user basis, high spending for the program overall and high unit cost increases over recent years. The tool also offers trend analyses and additional information for each drug, such as the brand name, number of prescription refills and the name of the manufacturer.

“We know that millions of Americans have come to rely on these prescription drugs to manage their chronic conditions or to treat serious illnesses,” the authors wrote. “Maintaining access to those medications is the reason we believe informed dialogue on how to manage costs and cost increases are so important.”

For more information:

CMS Drug Spending Dashboards. Accessed November 17, 2016.

Disclosures: Brennan, Gronniger and Slavitt are employed by CMS.