CVS Puts the Brakes on Prescription Drug Spending Growth


Price inflation in non-specialty drug brands outweighed all other prescription medication trend drivers.

The prescription drug trend for CVS Health pharmacy benefit management (PBM) clients dropped to 5% in 2015, the company reports.

The prescription drug trend is a measure of growth for prescription spending per member per month (PMPM). The calculations include drug prices, drug utilization, and generic drugs versus branded drugs.

In 2014, the prescription drug trend was at 11.8% before dropping in 2015. Although trend drivers were similar in 2014, CVS management strategies proved to be a success, the company stated in a press release.

It was found that price inflation in non-specialty brands outweighed all other trend drivers. Furthermore, specialty drug trends that include the impact of new launches and an increase in prices had less impact than inflation of brands in high volume categories.

"The double-digit drug trend increases we were experiencing in 2014 resulted in a call to action from our clients to help them ensure their plan members could access the medications they need to stay healthy, at an affordable price," said Executive Vice President of CVS Health Jonathan Roberts. "Our programs were effective and successful, as shown by the dramatic drop in overall drug trend last year, and moving forward, we will continue to focus on identifying key drug trend drivers in real time and quickly deliver flexible solutions to our clients that result in additional cost savings for clients while improving the health of their plan members."

CVS Caremark — CVS’s PBM – offers flexible options based off clinical evidence that will help lower costs and ensure access to medications. In 2015, depending on the amount of plan members they supported, CVS managed to save $20 million or more.

Also, research published by CVS Health Research Institute showed that selective formulary design not only saved costs, but also improved adherence of medications and health outcomes.

"The high cost of drugs that our clients are struggling with hurts everyone," said Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS, Troyen A. Brennan, MD. "Millions of people depend on us for the prescriptions they need to stay healthy. At CVS Health, we work to help patients avoid unnecessarily expensive medications as part of our focus on making prescriptions affordable."

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