The State Worker

High drug prices cause CalPERS prescription bill to spike to $1.86 billion

CalPERS’ cost to fill prescription drug orders rose 7.5 percent last year to $1.86 billion, according to a report this week to the fund’s board.

Meanwhile, the number of prescriptions in 2014 declined, but the savings from decreased demand was overwhelmed by the higher cost per drug order.

The report blames the higher costs on “lack of price control in the United States, limited competition, high cost generics, and a continued ‘pipeline’ of new drugs coming to market.”

Pharmacies received 19.67 million written orders for drugs to treat CalPERS members, 0.5 percent fewer than in 2013. But the allowed average cost per prescription increased 8.1 percent to $94.38.

Among the most prescribed drugs and the conditions they treat, according to the report: Nexium (stomach ulcers), Abilify (bipolar disorder), Advair Diskus (asthma), Enbrel and Humira (rheumatoid arthritis), Sovaldi (chronic hepatitis C) and Copaxone (muscular sclerosis).

CalPERS health care programs cover 1.4 million active and retired state and local government employees and their families. Last year, the fund spent more than $7.74 billion on health benefits for them.