Increased Use of Generic Medications Could Have Saved $20B This Year, Report Finds
By increasing use of generic drugs, consumers, employers and health plans could have saved more than $20 billion in 2004, according to a new report by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, the AP/Albany Times Union reports. The report, which analyzed six major classes of drugs, is based on a sample of about three million Express Scripts commercial members.
According to the report, $24 billion in savings will be lost if generic use does not increase this year and $25 billion in savings will be lost if generic use does not increase next year. The report also says that generic drugs cost on average $60 less per monthly prescription than a brand-name drug. The potential for the "most dramatic savings" is by using generic gastrointestinal drugs, with projected savings reaching about $5.4 billion nationally, the AP/Times Union reports.
According to the report, a generic gastrointestinal drug is appropriate about 95% of the time but dispensed about 31% of the time. In addition, generic drugs generally have lower copayments, which could result in savings of about $10 per prescription for consumers. The potential for savings from increased generic drug use will rise, as more brand-name drugs lose patent protection in the next five years, the AP/Times Union reports.
Steve Miller, vice president of research for Express Scripts, said, "Patients need to be empowered to ask the question" about generic alternatives to brand-name drugs. He added that advertisements strengthen a brand's name and image to consumers and doctors usually have no incentive to write prescriptions for generics.
Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Much of the increase in generic drug use advocated by Express Scripts involves switching patients to medicines different from those prescribed by their physicians. ... Patients differ from one another, as do medicines in a therapeutic class. It is important that the patient and his or her physician determine which medicine is right for the patient" (Agovino, AP/Albany Times Union, 10/25).