Generics Called One Answer to Lowering Healthcare Costs

Discussion
Oct 25, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A new study says American consumers could have held on to $20 billion last year if they had purchased generic drugs instead of buying a name brand version. It also says that consumers could save $25 billion if they make the switch next year.


The study conducted by the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts included an analysis of six classes of prescription medicines. According to the company, generics cost about $60 less based on a monthly prescription than brand name medicines. Consumers also have lower co-payments for generics, another source of savings.


Steve Miller, MD, vice president, research, Express Scripts and an author of the study results said in a released statement: “We have only scratched the surface in taking advantage of the money-saving potential of clinically sound generic drugs. As additional generics come to market and the use of prescription drugs grows, the opportunity to lower healthcare costs becomes even more significant. Best of all, using more generics simply requires better education and awareness of alternatives, not a big-dollar up-front investment.”


Dr. Miller added, “Consider that $20 billion in generic drug savings in just six therapy classes is the same amount America’s community hospitals spend each year on uncompensated care for the uninsured.”


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America took issue with Express Scripts findings.


Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the trade group, said in a released statement: “Much of the increase in generic drug use advocated by Express Scripts involves switching patients to medicines different from those prescribed by their physicians. They are not generic copies of the prescribed treatments. 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.”


Moderator’s Comment: Should retailers be pushing generics and suggesting them as an alternative to name brand pharmaceuticals? What can they do to promote
generics without going beyond ethical boundaries?


According to Express Scripts’ web site, 51 percent of all prescriptions in the U.S. are filled using generics.


In a separate story, Walgreens announced it is looking to source greater quantities of generic drugs from India. The company said it is looking to increase
the amount it purchases from manufacturers in the Asian country so that it can further drive down the cost of purchase for the company.

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Generics Called One Answer to Lowering Healthcare Costs"


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Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
15 years 4 months ago

With the heavy advertising drug companies do to promote their brands, consumers are trained to “ask their doctor about…” a drug by brand name and may not be aware if a generic version exists.

As far as pharmacies promoting generic alternatives, I personally have a higher comfort level discussing pros and cons with my doctor than with a pharmacist with whom I have no ongoing relationship.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

We seem to have another self-serving study here. Yes, generic drugs do save money, but they also have larger gross margins than branded. This is our normal Private Label argument. Two issues come into play here. First, there have been efforts to change patients from one branded to another formula generic. This is two different prescriptions and only a doctor should make that decision. For example, one cholesterol drug may work better for a patient than another. The second issue is generics may be an old formula and the branded is an improved one. When there is simply no change or difference, the generic is the way to go.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I have recently discovered that there can be minor differences from one manufacturer to the other in producing what is marketed as the same drug. Those differences can influence the way in which the user responds. While I have no objection, in principle, to generics and do strongly favour them if all the circumstances are right, I have now learned that a conversation with pharmacist or doctor about the differences between brands is worth having. Simply changing brand on the same drug may alleviate problems and side effects, something that it takes professional advice to evaluate.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Only once in my life has a pharmacist ever suggested a generic substitute, and it was only because I protested that the price of the original drug seemed excessive.

All pharmacies have the name and home address of every prescription customer. It would be easy to mail a letter to every customer who has a “substitutable” prescription, naming the generic as a suggestion, with a copy to the doctor, and showing the monthly or annual savings. I don’t know if anyone has tried the suggestion I’ve made, or if there are ethical or legal restrictions preventing something like this. If it’s legal and ethical, it would need to be worded with tremendous tact.

mike anderson
Guest
mike anderson
15 years 4 months ago

David makes a sound point, but when a doctor with a dozen years of medical training recommends a particular drug, is a patient without the benefit of the same training really the right one to question the choice of meds?

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 4 months ago

I agree with David. But generics would be in even wider distribution if the drug lobby wasn’t so powerful and didn’t own the best Congress that money can buy.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

What’s to promote? Just about every health insurance policy requires that generic drugs be used. Otherwise the consumer is responsible for the difference. If the consumer wishes to go with name-brand drugs then it’s their money and they have the freedom to choose.

R. Aungst
Guest
R. Aungst
15 years 4 months ago

A lot of good points have been made regarding this issue. Most pharmacists know medications better than the doctors and they should be directly involved in the discussion of whether generic or a particular brand is necessary for a particular patient. The drug companies spend an exorbitant amount of money detailing both the Dr.’s and on direct to consumer ads. Too bad more isn’t emphasized on the merits of generic medications… like “ask your doctor” if generic is OK. Maybe PSA’s… what do you think?

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