Specialty drugs have greatly improved quality and duration of life for many patients. Specialty drugs have been developed for a variety of illnesses, such as cancer, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. However, these drugs are typically very expensive. Are they worth the cost?
A paper by Chambers et al. (2014) find the following:
…specialty drugs offered greater QALY gains (0.183 versus 0.002 QALYs) but were associated with greater additional costs ($12,238 versus $784), compared to traditional drugs. The two types of drugs had comparable cost-effectiveness. However, the distributions across the two types differed, with 26 percent of specialty drugs—but only 9 percent of traditional drugs—associated with incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of greater than $150,000 per QALY. Our study suggests that although specialty drugs often have higher costs than traditional drugs, they also tend to confer greater benefits and hence may still offer reasonable value for the money.
- James D. Chambers, Teja Thorat, Junhee Pyo, Matthew Chenoweth and Peter J. Neumann. Despite High Costs, Specialty Drugs May Offer Value For Money Comparable To That Of Traditional Drugs. Health Aff October 2014 vol. 33 no. 10 1751-1760. 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.0574