Hospitals will spend up to 3% more on drugs in 2023, study finds

Nonfederal hospitals' costs have hovered around $35 billion to $40 billion since 2018, and in 2023, overall prescription drug spending is expected to be about $38 billion, or a 1 percent to 3 percent increase from the prior year. 

This increase is moderate compared to the previous year's change; in 2021, hospital drug spending grew 8.4 percent from 2020. 

Eric Tichy, PharmD, the study's author and division chair of pharmacy supply chain at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told Becker's the COVID-19 pandemic — and its drugs — complicated hospital pharmacy budgets. 

For example, remdesivir, which Gilead Sciences sells with the brand name Veklury, was the first approved COVID-19 therapy in 2020. In 2021, Gilead reported $5.6 billion in earnings from that one product as nonfederal hospitals spent $3.1 billion on buying and using the drug. The next year, utilization of the drug fell as the pandemic waned and hospital expenditures on it decreased 58.1 percent

In 2022, remdesivir was still hospitals' priciest pharmaceutical expense, accounting for $1.31 billion, according to the study, which the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy published April 24.

The list price of remdesivir stayed the same as hospitals' needs for it fell, leading to its 58 percent drop. The dramatic decrease in its utilization was not predicted before 2022, which muddled plans for pharmaceutical budgets. 

"In hospitals and most businesses, we like to have stable financials. [The pandemic] has made it very difficult to predict and provide financial forecasts," Dr. Tichy told Becker's.


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