- Researchers at Tufts University used 12 years of data (1999-2011) to compare the cost-effectiveness of traditional drugs versus specialty drugs, such as Gilead’s hep C cure Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and the newly-approved combo pill Harvoni.
- The study found that treatment with specialty drugs imposed significant additional healthcare costs that were 15 times higher than for treatment with traditional drugs—$12,238 vs. $784. However, the specialty drugs also conferred significantly higher benefits in Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs).
- The takeaway: Specialty drugs are significantly more expensive than traditional drugs, but they may be equally cost effective, since they significantly bolster health and life expectancy. The results of this analysis will provide a powerful argument for companies that are accused of overpricing their specialty products.
In August, BioPharma Dive explored the controversy surrounding Sovaldi pricing. The NYT's Margot Sanger-Katz argued that paying for higher-priced specialty drugs now can save a significant amount of money downstream.
The latest analysis from the researchers at Tufts presents a new angle to this discussion while providing justification for high-priced specialty drugs. The researchers conducted the analysis by examining health gains as measured by QALYs and discovered that specialty drugs provided greater far greater QALYs compared with traditional drugs.
The study authors also found that a higher percentage of specialty drugs versus traditional drugs were associated with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio greater than $150,000 (26% vs. 9%). There are many implications and nuances to this study; however, based on its scope and analytical rigor, it may very well be the basis of companies' arguments in favor of high-priced specialty drugs.