IQVIA https://IQVIA.com released their updated report last week titled Monitoring the Impact of COVID-19 on the Pharmaceutical Market providing an overview of policy guidelines and key trends impacting the U.S pharmaceutical market as well as their findings related to telehealth usage.
Credit Suisse’s https://www.credit-suisse.com takeaways from the report discussed Rx trends. Total prescriptions have increased for the first time since the stockpiling period. Total Rx (retail & mail channels) grew 0.3% for the week ending May 1st which was the first Weight per Weight (W/W) growth experienced since the prescription stockpiling period with the week ending March 20th.
This increase was driven by a 0.5% W/W increase in retail partially offset by and 2.9% W/W decline in mail. New to brand prescriptions grew 1.5% W/W for the week ending April 24th as office visits began to increase and telehealth productivity started improving.
Continuing Rx declined slightly (1.4% W/W) as prescriptions have shifted to a 90 day supply, which means there are fewer refills in addition to fewer new to brand prescriptions in the preceding weeks. This new to brand growth was driven by generic drugs for conditions commonly treated via telehealth (e.g. NSAIDS, antidepressants, insulins, and anticoagulants).
After steadily declining throughout March and into early April, physician visits and telehealth usage seem to have bottomed out. In fact, office visits marginally increased for the weeks ending April 17 and April 24 but are still down -60% from pre-COVID baseline levels.
However, telehealth visits continue to increase based on IQVIA’s Medical Claims data. Primary care visits provided via telehealth have been most prevalent in large metro areas where 39% of primary care visits are being done virtually versus 24% in rural areas. On the flip side, virtual specialty care is more prevalent in the rural areas and are reported to be 55% of total visits for the first week of May.
Telehealth visits have been split almost 50/50 between live video and phone/text, with minimal email interactions. As HIPAA regulations have been relaxed, technologies such as FaceTime, WebEx, WhatsApp, and Zoom have been used to conduct telehealth visits. Although traditional telehealth platforms such as Teladoc, Amwell, MDLive etc. have a slight lead over Zoom in terms of usage, physicians surveyed have a slight preference for Zoom.
Based on the IQVIA study of medical claims other than general medical surgery, it was found that the highest penetration was in psychiatry as 60% of these visits were conducted by telehealth for the week ending April 17th followed by gastroenterology with 49% penetration.
Also, based on IQVIA’s Oncology Medical Claims data for the week ending April 24, reports that oncology visits rose above 90% of the baseline level (average of 4 weeks ending February 28), as in person as well as telehealth oncology visits increased. Now it is reported that nearly 10% of oncology patient interactions are being conducted via telehealth.
Although PCPs led the way in terms of telehealth interaction pre-COVID as well as during the pandemic, oncology physicians are expecting their telehealth visit volumes to remain elevated as compared to PCPs and specialty physicians. As healthcare providers have become more familiar with telehealth, higher-severity conditions have been increasingly treated in a virtual setting.
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