Medicare Patients' Psoriasis, PsA Drug Costs Remain High

Heidi Splete

September 16, 2021

High out-of-pocket costs for medications remain a barrier for patients with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis on Medicare, according to findings from a cross-sectional analysis of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Prescription Drug Plan Formulary Data from the fourth quarter of 2020.

Although biologics have demonstrated safety and effectiveness for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, their costs have risen, which has led patients to switch or discontinue biologics and consequently incur greater health care costs, wrote Sarah P. Pourali and colleagues at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

The authors also noted that Medicare patients in particular experience a financial burden if they have no limits on out-of-pocket spending, and while patient assistance programs may offset some out-of-pocket spending for specialty drugs, not all patients are aware of or qualify for them. Ineligibility for low-income subsidies also serves as a barrier and is associated with lower adherence to treatment.

In a study published in JAMA Dermatology, the researchers identified 5,011 formularies using the CMS data. The medications were etanercept, adalimumab, golimumab, ustekinumab, certolizumab pegol, apremilast, secukinumab, abatacept, ixekizumab, brodalumab, tofacitinib, tofacitinib XR, guselkumab, tildrakizumab, and risankizumab.

Overall, coverage for those 15 specialty medications ranged from 10.0% to 99.8% across products and Part D plans. The most commonly covered medications were adalimumab and ustekinumab (99.8% for both) and the least covered were brodalumab and tildrakizumab (10.9% and 10.0%, respectively).

Prior authorization was required by 90.5%-100% of the plans when medications were covered, and plans with limits on the quantity of medications covered ranged from 1.0% of plans (for guselkumab) to 78% of plans (for tofacitinib).

Copays were relatively rare; 2.4%-5.5% of the plans offered copays on any of the 15 medications.

The standard Medicare benefit for 2021 included a $445 deductible, 25% coinsurance for initial drug spending, and 5% coinsurance for drug spending in the catastrophic phase of coverage, the researchers noted. Overall, apremilast had the lowest estimated out-of-pocket costs for initial fills, under the catastrophic coverage phase, and annual cost, and ustekinumab had the highest. The estimated out-of-pocket costs for an initial fill ranged from $1,234 for apremilast to $3,426 for ustekinumab. Out-of-pocket costs for medications under the catastrophic phase ranged from $181 for apremilast to $1,175 for ustekinumab. Estimated out-of-pocket costs for a year of treatment ranged from $4,423 for apremilast to $6,950 for ustekinumab.

Median point-of-sale prices per fill – meaning pricing with no rebates or discounts – were lowest for apremilast ($3,620.40) and reached $23,492.93 per fill for ustekinumab, the researchers wrote. Other medications with point-of-sale prices above $10,000 were guselkumab ($11,511.52), tildrakizumab ($14,112.13), and risankizumab ($16,248.90).

The study was supported by grants from the Commonwealth Fund and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. One author disclosed receiving grants from Arnold Ventures, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for unrelated work, as well as honoraria from West Health and the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.