2002's Top Pharmaceutical Drug Trends Released

December 27, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Express Scripts has released its fourth annual year-end report on events and trends influencing prescription drug costs and utilization, with a higher market share for generics and Claritin now available over-the-counter (OTC) .

Generic drugs increased their market share in 2002 to 45.2%, up from 42.1% in 2001. These equivalents to name-brand medications generally cost about 40% less and usually offer a lower co-payment than brand-name drugs, presenting savings opportunities for plan sponsors, according to the report.

Even though a generic alternative is not available for all drugs, the report said patents on many widely used, expensive medications, will expire in the coming months and years, increasing the likelihood that more and more generic competitors will enter the market. Wider availability of generics will offer prescription drugs plans and consumers more opportunities to cut costs.

The other top development, the availability of the antihistamine Claritin OTC, has given PBMs a choice on whether or not they will continue to cover the antihistamine as an OTC drug, and, if not, whether they will cover any other brand name antihistamines, such as Clarinex, Allegra or Zyrtec , according to the report.

Prescription drug plans that drop coverage of this popular class of medications potentially could save a lot, but plan members could pay a lot more, cautioned the report.

Other top developments reviewed by the Express Scripts report include:

  • Concern and confusion caused by studies examining the role of hormone replacement therapy, causing some women to change to other medications and others not to start at all
  • The FDA delaying several high-profile drugs, while approving other unique drugs
  • Restrictions on prescription drug promotion, offering the potential for plan sponsors to have more say in drug trends
  • Specialty injectable drugs establish their place in medicine, giving another option to manage the costs of these high priced drugs
  • Generic version of the anti-ulcer drug Prilosec, Omeprazole, entering the market in December 2002

“Many of the challenges of the pharmaceutical landscape have remained essentially unchanged year to year, but marketplace conditions now point to new cost-lowering opportunities that will help meet those challenges,” said Barrett Toan, Express Scripts’ chairman and chief executive officer.