Spending on basic prescription drugs like cholesterol-lowering pills recorded a rare decline in the U.S.
The slight decrease in traditional-drug spending reflected Express Scripts's success in steering members toward cheaper pills and new generic versions of major drugs like Pfizer Inc.'s cholesterol drug Lipitor and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s anticlotting drug Plavix.
Drugs for inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis made up the costliest specialty category last year, Express Scripts said, with spending up 23%. This category includes the blockbuster drug Humira from Abbott Laboratories spinoff AbbVie, which posted $9.27 billion in sales last year, a 17% rise.
The liver disease hepatitis C was another area where Express Scripts saw soaring spending—up 33.7%—following the 2011 approval of new drugs from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Merck & Co. Express Scripts expects spending in this area, where prescriptions cost nearly $3,300 per month for commercially insured members, to continue growing rapidly.