Rising Prescription Prices and Patient Impact

If you have been shocked by the ongoing increases in prescription prices, you are not alone. There are frequent discussions in the news about the rising cost of prescriptions. The debate continues about how to make sure health care resources are used responsibly, to provide the best results at a cost effective price.

The prices of brand name and generic prescription medications have risen dramatically over the past six years. According to JAMA and The Wall Street Journal, between 2009 and 2015 the retail prices of brand-name drugs for dermatological care rose by 401% on average and generics by 279%. For psoriasis patients the drug etanercept, brand name Enbrel, comes with a large price tag, and some insurance companies are not willing to cover the bill for a monthly prescription. On top of the cost of the etanercept, can be the additional cost of topical medications that are frequently prescribed to supplement it. This additional prescription leads to even more cost for the patient and the insurance.

So, what does this mean? If the cost is too high, the prescription will go unfilled, and the patient will opt to go with out needed treatment. According to the data, more than 1 in 5 prescriptions will not be filled. That’s 20% of patients not getting the treatment they need.

Psoriasis, in particular, creates a large economic burden for patients and payers; estimates of the direct costs of psoriasis range from $51.7 billion to $63.2 billion annually, with an additional $23.9 billion to $35.4 billion in indirect costs. Biologic drug prescriptions account for just 9.6% of all psoriasis prescriptions. Yet, they make up 86% of the total cost of all psoriasis medications.

Fortunately, when it comes to the treatment of psoriasis, (as well as vitiligo, eczema and other photoresponsive diseases) there is a lower cost, yet effective treatment. Phototherapy is a time-tested, safe and well-tolerated treatment for many photoresponsive dermatoses, yet it is much less expensive than other therapies.

From a payer-perspective cost model, comparing the direct expenditures associated with the long-term management of psoriasis using various treatments, home UVB phototherapy typically costs significantly less than any other treatments for moderate-to-severe psoriasis (including methotrexate, PUVA, acitretin, and biologic agents).

The adoption of home phototherapy as a first line treatment for psoriasis has the opportunity to safely and effectively save billions of dollars in treatment cost for healthcare payers while significantly reducing patient out-of-pocket costs and improving patient satisfaction and quality of life.



Blankeney, Samantha. The Reality of Rising Prescription Prices and Unfilled Prescriptions. The Dermatologist. 2017 January.