Rheumatology drugs among the most costly on the PBS

Drugs for rheumatology conditions are among the highest growth items for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a new report shows.

In its expenditure summary for the last year, the PBS ranks tofacitinib, (Xeljanz), as the sixth highest drug in terms of growth in costs to the PBS.

The oral  Janus kinase inhibitor for rheumatoid arthritis showed an increase in costs to the government of 157% from $18 million to $46 million between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The number of PBS-subsidised prescriptions for the drug increased from 10,269 to 28,718 scripts.

Also in the top ten drugs for increased costs to the PBS is the biological DMARD secukinumab (Cosentyx), which is licensed for treatment of ankylosing spondylitis and severe psoriatic arthritis.

PBS spending on the drug increased by almost 200% from $12 million to almost $36 million as the number of prescription rose from 7,048 to 20,026.

The anti-TNF drug adalimumab (Humira), listed on the PBS for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, was the third most costly drug for the PBS, at $256 million.

Etanercept which is PBS listed for treatment of several forms of arthritis, was the 10th most costly drug for the PBS, accounting for $142 million of the PBS budget in 2016/17.

The highest cost drugs to the PBS in the last year were the newly-subsidised direct acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C curative treatment, which also showed the highest growth in costs. The combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) was the highest cost drug, costing the government $ 754 million.

The report shows that there were 6.8 million prescriptions for drugs in the category antiflammatory and antirheumatic products.

However there was an almost 8% decline in the overall number of prescriptions for musculoskeletal conditions from 7.6 to 7 million.

There were about 200 million prescriptions for the year, with a total cost to the PBS of $12 billion.

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