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Medical Services

Irving-based Company Predicts Smaller (But Still Sizable) Increase In Drug Prices Next Year

By Shawn Shinneman |

Vizient released its drug price forecast for 2019, and the data-driven company says it expects prices to increase 4.92 percent during 2019. But the prediction comes with a caveat for health systems to latch onto: The percent of price inflation is down nearly three percentage points—from 7.61 percent last year—which Vizient says could signal the beginning of a change in the trend.

For now, the specialty pharmacy industry continues to drive up the prices, Vizient says:

Although the rate of price increases is projected to slow, the specialty pharmacy market is expected to continue its rapid pace of growth, which accounts for the majority of overall price inflation. According to a recent industry analysis, specialty pharmaceuticals now account for more than 46 percent of the total spend on drugs in the U.S., in spite of being used for very small and targeted patient populations.

Dan Kistner, Vizient SVP of pharmacy solutions, identifies two key themes from the study: “The continued growth of specialty pharmacy products as a share of total spending and the critical importance of ongoing, robust generic, and biosimilar competition on restraining overall price growth,” Kistner says in a statement.

Introducing competition is the primary route to containing prices. Nearly 80 percent of the projected price inflation next year will come from drugs with no competition, the study says.

Vizient notes increased government attention as a positive development since last year’s forecast. On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a policy that will allow some insurers to require that patients try cheaper medications before moving up to the most costly drugs.

Vizient, a healthcare company that uses data to help its members improve, bases the drug price forecast on data from its membership, which encompasses about $100 billion in annual healthcare purchasing volume. Members include academic medical centers, pediatric facilities, community hospitals, integrated health delivery networks, and non-acute healthcare providers.