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Despite 2015 slowdown, specialty continues to grow share of health spend


For the year ended May 2016, specialty medicines made up 36% of all drug spend, according to IMS Health data. And for the year-to-date as of May, specialty spending growth was at 23% — outpacing the 7.8% YTD spending growth that traditional medicines saw in the same time period.

Such specialty drugs as Harvoni, Opdivo, Ibrance and Copaxone are some of the main drivers of increased brand spending for the 12 months ended March 2016. Of the $41 billion in new spending during that time, $21 billion was for brand spending, much of which was focused on specialty drugs. Of the $21 billion in new brand spending, $3.5 billion was for viral hepatitis treatments, $1.5 billion went to multiple sclerosis treatments, $3.8 billion moved toward oncology treatments, $2.8 billion was for HIV retroviral drugs and autoimmune treatments, and $2.1 billion went to other specialty treatments.

The spending growth coincides with something of a boom in new active substances being developed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Between 2011 and 2015, 184 new active substances were introduced — more than the 146 introduced between 2006 and 2010. Since 1996, a total of 718 new active substances have been introduced, and IMS Health projects that number will hit 943 by 2020, as it expects 225 to be introduced in the coming years. Of the new active substances introduced since 1996, about 38% of them have been specialty biologics and small molecules.

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