COVID-19 May Continue to Impact Healthcare Costs

Biosimilars may reduce healthcare costs.

An increase in drug prices may be coming, according to recent report findings. In fact, in the Vizient Winter 2021 Pharmacy Market Outlook, results projected a 2.67% increase in the price of pharmaceuticals purchased by health systems, academic medical centers, pediatric hospitals, and non-acute practices from July 1 to June 30, 2022.

Further findings demonstrated an overall increase for oncology spend, a potential increase in cancer mortality due to the impact of COVID-19 on screenings and the pandemic’s impact on plasma-derived products.

“The trend toward more moderate drug price increases is a welcome one, given the financial difficulties created by the pandemic,” Dan Kistner, Pharm.D., group senior vice president, pharmacy solutions for Vizient, said in a press release. “Even so, without question the pandemic continues to have an impact on clinical and financial outcomes. Increased use of high-cost drugs vasopressin and tocilizumab as well as many critical care drugs used to treat COVID patients are continuing to impact budgets.”

A recent FDA approval of vasopressin caused the price to spike significantly, according to the press release. But there are substantial price decreases projected for other drugs including injectable acetaminophen, daptomycin, and regadenoson. Adalimumab is the drug with the largest anticipated price increase and is used to treat arthritis and ulcerative colitis. The drug is projected to increase in price by 7.5% over the next 18 months as biosimilar competition cannot yet be marketed.

According to the report, oncology medications which make up 24.67% of pharmaceutical purchases are expected to increase 2.68%. Additionally, screening rates for breast, colon, and cervical cancer reduced dramatically since April, which led to a 65.2% decline in the incidence of new cancer diagnoses. Such could lead to mortality increases up to 9.5% from breast cancer and up to 16.6% for colorectal cancer within five years.

Vizient expects supply of plasma-derived products to tighten in the first quarter of 2021 due to the reduction of plasma donations and concerns about contracting COVID-19.

What’s more, biosimilars may make their biggest impact in the next five years, according to the report. There are 29 FDA-approved biosimilars with more yet to be launched. Biosimilars resulted in cost savings of $19 billion between 2015-2019. Such savings are expected to increase to $104 billion by 2024.

“It’s not yet possible to determine the total expense associated with COVID-19 on the health care industry. We know that spend on COVID-related drugs began to decline in the second quarter of last year, but we saw an uptick of $60.5 million over five of the most commonly used COVID-related drugs in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019,” Kistner concluded.