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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: September 8, 2009
Study Finds Americans Know Little About Generic Prescriptions

A new survey by Prescription Solutions, a pharmacy benefit management organization under UnitedHealth Group, found that many Americans still have limited understanding when it comes to the cost, ingredients and effectiveness of generic drugs.

The study also confirmed that the current economic crisis is affecting consumer prescription drug use, said Prescription Solutions.

The use of generic drugs has saved the healthcare system $734 billion over the past decade.

Dr. Jacqueline Kosecoff, chief executive officer of Prescription Solutions, said, "Using generics helps make healthcare more affordable without compromising results. Many Americans erroneously believe that the most expensive drug is always the most effective drug, so by helping to change perceptions, we can help people save money and still get the best treatment available."

Among the key findings of the Prescription Solutions survey:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans do not know or believe that generics have the same active ingredients and effectiveness as brand name drugs.
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed do not understand the true cost differences between brand name drugs and generics. Only 31 percent of survey respondents indicated they knew that a brand name drug cost 50-70 percent more on average than its generic counterpart.
  • 71 percent of consumers remain concerned about drug costs – with more than one in four (27 percent) having either delayed filling, not filled, or not taken as directed a prescription drug in order to save money. Further, 21 percent of all respondents say they have talked to their doctor recently about switching to a less expensive drug.
  • 57 percent of those polled said they take prescription drugs on a weekly basis. Of those who do so, 83 percent (or 47 percent of the total sample) take generics. Further, among those who take generics, 82 percent say they do so because of the lower cost.
  • Of those who do not take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 58 percent say it is because there is no generic available for the drug they need.
  • Doctors and pharmacists are key influencers in encouraging the use of generics. Of those surveyed who take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 64 percent say their doctor recommended generics and 43 percent say their pharmacist recommended them.
  • Of those who do not take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 58 percent say they would if their pharmacist brought a generic to their attention as a less expensive, identical substitute; and 52 percent say their doctor would have to recommend it.

Taken together, these survey findings demonstrate the need to further educate consumers about the differences between brand name and generic drugs and the potential value of generic drug use; and, doctors and pharmacists have a major role to play in this effort, Prescription Solutions said.

As the nation looks at how to rein in healthcare costs without sacrificing quality, generic drugs are a proven resource.

However, biologic drugs, also known as specialty drugs, are becoming the costliest, but most popular area of pharmaceuticals, expected to grow from a $40 billion market in 2005 to more than $90 billion estimated by the end of this year.

However, there are currently no "generic" alternatives for specialty drugs.

"Biologic drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year for a single person’s treatment needs. A regulatory approval pathway for follow-on versions of these biologic drugs – or ‘biosimilars’ – must be created by Congress in order for patients, the government and U.S. businesses to afford them," Kosecoff said.

Prescription Solutions has found that when consumers use generics regularly, it lowers the cost of insurance and helps keep premiums lower in the long run.

According to company data, a 1 percent increase in generics utilization by consumers translates into 1.7 percent in total cost savings for payers like employers.

Equally important, Prescription Solutions has found that, while results vary depending on the plan design, members enrolled in its prescription drug plans typically save $20 to over $60 per prescription when switching from a brand to a generic drug.

"At a time when rising costs are taking an increasing toll on many American families, especially during the economic crisis, Prescription Solutions is working to ensure consumers have access to lower-priced generic drugs," said Kosecoff.

The company offers money-saving programs to influence and reward the use of generic drugs among customers.

For example, Presription Solutions partnered with clients and customers to help pioneer zero-dollar co-pays for generics ordered through its mail service for seniors in Medicare Part D plans.

Among other programs, the company provides clinical education, including cost-saving tips and information on lower-cost alternative medications for patients to discuss with their doctors and pharmacists.

The national telephone poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corp.on behalf of Prescription Solutions.

The national probability sample included 1,000 adults (500 men and 500 women), 18 years of age and older, and living in private households in the continental United States.

Address: Prescription Solutions, P.O. Box 509075, San Diego, CA 92150; (800) 788-4863,

  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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