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Published on : Oct 29, 2015

Overall spending on healthcare among insured patients in the United States rose at a moderate rate last year. However, the rate of spending on prescription drugs grew significantly, with most of them arising from expensive hepatitis C drugs.

A recent report from the Health Care Cost Institute brought to the fore three drugs for treating hepatitis C: Gilead Sciences’ Sovaldi and Harvoni and Johnson & Johnson’s Olysio, which are the main source of increased expenditure on brand name pharmaceuticals. These drugs entered the market in the latter half of 2013 and 2014 and have been called the pariahs in the national debate centered round increasing drug prices. 

Even though there was a decline in the use of brand name drugs in the year 2014 and an increasing number of people have been opting for cheaper generics over the past few years, the prices of the drugs have escalated, resulting in an increase of 8.2 per cent in brand name drug spending, based on information provided by the Health Care Cost Institute report. 

Most of the people who have insurance provided by the employer do not suffer from hepatitis C. The report reveals that the number of filled prescription days for Harvoni, Olysio, and Sovaldi was extremely low. However, the average per day price of the same drugs was over US$ 983, as against the US$ 38 per day for other anti-infective drugs.

Senior researcher at Health Care Cost Institute Amanda Frost said that the usage of hepatitis C drugs is comparatively much lower than those of other drugs. However, there was a pretty massive increase on the brand price and that rise can be attributed mainly to the three drugs: Olysio, Sovaldi, and Harvoni. 

When it came to out of pocket spending, those who had commercial insurance saw only a 2.2 per cent increase last year