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November 28, 2018

DES MOINES, IA – A new report from the Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Association shows generic drugs outpace branded drugs in terms of total prescriptions filled at 83 percent, up from 82 percent in 2016. However, branded drugs — while only making up 17 percent of total prescriptions filled — account for 79 percent of total spending and have increased four percent since 2016. As a result, the pricing of branded drugs are effectively cancelling out any positive effects generic drug use has on containing overall health care spending.

“Prescription drugs are essential to maintaining a person’s health, and it’s important for our members to understand the impact branded drugs have on overall health care costs,” said Matt Hosford, Wellmark vice president and chief pharmacy officer. “The findings in this report feature the underlying cost drivers in the prescription drug market and identify where costs may increase in the future.”

For Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) commercially insured members, prescription drugs represent more than 20 percent of overall health care spending. Prescription drugs come in two forms: 1) branded drugs that are sold under a brand name, often copyrighted or trademarked, and 2) generic drugs that have the same active chemical component as an existing branded drug.

The report, which includes eight years of drug utilization, price changes and overall spending, also provides a list of the top medications by spending during 2017 across the BCBS system. The top-three drugs on the list are used to treat autoimmune disorders. The top five include:

  1. Humira®
  2. Remicade®
  3. Enbrel®
  4. Novolog®
  5. Neulasta®

View the report "Prescription Drug Costs Trend Update" External Site for more information.

Humira®, Remicade®, Enbrel®, Novolog®, and Neulasta® are the property of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.