The pandemic has shaken American health care. Now for the rebound and the aftershocks.


Doug Long of IQVIA shared a torrent of data illustrating the effects of the pandemic – and its unintended effects, such as far fewer cases of the flu – on drug use, diagnostic visits, and prescriptions. Whether or not there is a 2021-22 flu season is one of the many wild cards in the months to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic left no part of the U.S. healthcare system untouched in 2020 and even as the country and healthcare system rebound, the influence of the pandemic is apparent and likely to last, according to a stream of facts and figures presented today by Doug Long, MBA, vice president of industrial relations at IQVIA at the 2021 annual national conference of the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute® in Orlando, Florida.

Using sales and other types of data gathered by IQVIA, Long showed that a billion fewer visits that resulted in a diagnosis were in 2020 than in the past, which is a decrease of 20 %. This year, people are starting to come back for visits, but Long shared data showing that diagnostic visits are still drastically down. Fewer diagnostic visits lead to fewer prescriptions, and Long showed a wide assortment of data documenting various aspects of the effect on prescriptions and drug sales.

Blockages and people’s reluctance to seek health care in person are among the reasons for the decline in visits, Long explained. But the dramatic drop in flu cases last year and the first part of this year has been another big factor, and Long said one of the main questions in the coming months is whether the flu will resume. normal levels. He showed data from Australia, which has an influenza season in the southern hemisphere ahead of countries in the northern hemisphere, which suggests there will still be far fewer influenza cases and therefore fewer diagnostic visits. , especially for pediatricians.

Long’s data also showed the much-discussed increase in telehealth use. In the past, telehealth visits tended to generate fewer prescriptions than in-person visits because the lab and other tests that result in prescriptions are not performed as often if a patient is seen digitally. As telehealth becomes a more fixed part of health care delivery, this separation of testing and ordering may change.

“What’s going to be interesting to watch is how digital plays out in the market,” Long said in a brief interview. Health executive® after his speech.

Here are some other data that Long discussed during this PBMI presentation.

  • Specialists with the biggest gaps in claims in 2020 are working on the backlog of patients, especially ophthalmologists and dermatologists. Long showed data on brand new prescriptions (NBRx) – a metric the pharmaceutical industry tracks to gauge drug sales – and claims comparing the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021. Claims and NBRx have increased for ophthalmology, dermatology and obstetrics and gynecology.
  • The non-commercial channel recovers the effects of COVID-19. Non-commerce sales growth fell 1.8% in 2020, but Long showed a chart based on IQVIA data that shows a rebound to 6.1% in the first half of 2021.
  • The growth of specialty drugs outstrips traditional growth and now accounts for just under half of undiscounted spending. Almost everyone at the meeting referred to the growth in spending on specialty drugs. In 2017, the share of traditional specialties sales was 43.1% and 56.9%, according to IQVIA sales data Long showed. In the 12 months leading up to June of this year (MAT June), it was 48.9% specialty and 51.1% traditional.
  • New manufacturer revenues have grown by $ 48 billion over the past five years, driven by new products and the volume of protected brands.
  • Growing control over payers continues to challenge patient access. Specialty patients are 20% more likely not to fill a prescription today than they were in 2013, according to IQVIA data shared by Long, and 60% of specialty patients with a step change (coverage of d ‘a cheaper drug before a more expensive one is covered) are unable to overcome the restriction within 30 days.

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