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The cost of treating psoriasis is rising faster than inflation, says a U.S. study, which also found that newer, biologically-derived treatments cost more than traditional systemic therapies.
Researchers created a cost model to analyze the total cost of systemic therapy for psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune skin disease that affects 4.5 million to 7.5 million Americans and costs the nation's health care industry more than $3 billion a year.
The cost for each type of systemic therapy (such as oral medications) was calculated by using the average wholesale price of each drug plus the cost of office visits, laboratory tests and monitoring. "Current total and annual costs for systemic psoriasis therapies ranged from $1,197 (methotraxate [a traditional systemic therapy]) to $27,577 (alefacept [a biologic], two 12-week courses)," wrote Dr. Vivianne Beyer of St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis and Dr. Stephen E. Wolverton of the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Costs for phototherapy (exposure to ultraviolet light) ranged from $3,083–7,288, and costs for biologics ranged from $18,384–27,577. "Trends in the average wholesale price of brand-name psoriasis therapies from 2000 through 2008 demonstrate an average increase of 66%," they wrote. "Thus, costs of several brand-name psoriasis drugs greatly outpaced the rate of inflation for all items and all prescription drugs." During this time, the urban Consumer Price Index for all items increased 25.8% and 30.1% for all prescription drugs.
The study is in the January issue of the Archives of Dermatology. "Although the tendency of psoriasis drug costs to outpace the Consumer Price Index-Urban rate is shared by both traditional and biologic therapies, traditional therapies remain much more affordable than biologic therapies," the researchers wrote. "When considering the expense of biologic therapies, even relatively small increases in price become significant, such as the 14% increase during an eight-year period seen with infliximib."