One more indicator of the growing epidemic of diabetes in the US is out. Spending on diabetes drugs is spiraling by leaps and bounds.
According to a drug trend report released by the Medico Health Solutions, diabetes treatments trailed only cholesterol medications in total prescription drug spending growth in 2006.
An aging population and the alarming rise in obesity — a leading cause of diabetes — are expected to push spending growth rates on diabetes drugs up 16 percent to 20 percent annually.
The analysis projects that, by 2009, spending on medicines to treat diabetes could soar by 60 percent to 68 percent from 2006 levels.
Spending on diabetes treatments increased 14.5 percent from 2005 to 2006 and the use of diabetes drugs increased 5.1 percent. The U.S. sales of diabetes drugs reached $9.88 billion in 2005.
Use is expected to increase by 8 percent to 10 percent each year, with patients more frequently using new drug combinations to reach target blood sugar levels, the Medco analysis of likely future prescription drug spending and utilization found.
"There are going to be a lot more drugs coming out and more and more people with type 2 diabetes will catapult diabetes to the number one class in driving year over year spending growth," Dr. Lon Castle, director of medical policy for Medco, said in an interview.
A wave of new diabetes treatments, such as Merck & Co.'s, Januvia, and Byetta from Eli Lilly and Co. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and others expected to hit the market from the likes of Novartis AG and Novo Nordisk A/S will help push up treatment costs, the report said.
Some newer drugs that act on new targets are increasingly being prescribed as first-line therapy and are frequently being used in combination with other drugs, driving up costs this year and going forward, the report said.
Use of lower cost generic drugs could mitigate pricing pressures, said Medco, a pharmacy benefits manager that negotiates prescription drug costs for companies and other large clients.
But while new medicines and combination therapies can be expensive, the cost of treating complications from untreated diabetes would create a much larger burden on government and private health plans and patient pocketbooks.
"Diabetes and, in particular, type 2 diabetes, is becoming much more prevalent among people of all ages," Medco Chief Medical Officer Robert Epstein said in a statement.
"While prevention of type 2 diabetes needs to be a national priority, drug treatments can help prevent the onset of complications from diabetes that lead to hospitalizations, more complex treatment and dramatically higher costs," Epstein said.