More health insurance coverage for expensive immunotherapies caused claims for immunotherapies to rise despite a decline in prescription days last year, government data showed.
According to data from the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service, claims for therapies to treat malignant tumors exceeded 1.1 trillion won ($1.01 billion) last year, after surpassing 1 trillion won in 2016.
The increase of claims came as the regulator granted health insurance coverage to two leading immunotherapies in August -- Keytruda (ingredient: pembrolizumab) of MSD Korea and Opdivo (ingredient: nivolumab) of Ono Pharmaceutical Korea and BMS Korea.
Pfizer Korea’s breast cancer drug Ibrance (ingredient: palbociclib) and Roche Korea’s bladder cancer treatment Tecentriq (ingredient: atezolizumab) also gained health insurance benefits in November and this past January, respectively.
The prescription days of immunotherapies for malignant tumors fell to 108 million days last year from 122 million days in 2016, and from 147 million days in 2015.
However, health insurance coverage for expensive immunotherapies pushed up the claims to 1.16 trillion won last year compared with 1.09 trillion won in 2016, and 932.1 billion won in 2015.