|10 Prescription Drugs Accounted For More Than $1 Billion In Spending
Out of more than 3,000 prescribed drugs in upstate New
York last year, 10 brand-name drugs accounted for more than $1 billion
in spending, or nearly 20 percent of the total amount spent on
prescription medications, according to a new report issued by Excellus
BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS).
The report, titled "The Top 10 Drugs and Drug Categories
in Upstate New York by Amount of Spending," shows that last year
upstate New Yorkers spent $5.5 billion on prescription medications.
This is an increase of $210 million from the previous year and an
increase of more than $1 billion from 2003.
It reflects the growing availability and use of prescription drugs, as well as a steep rise in the price of commonly-used drugs.
In 2007, the 10 drugs that accounted for the most spending in upstate New York were:
1. Lipitor, to treat cholesterol ($241,520,000)
2. Advair, to treat asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($116,280,000)
3. Protonix, to treat heartburn/ulcers ($107,680,000)
4. Prevacid, to treat heartburn/ulcers ($103,580,000)
5. Plavix, to treat heart/stroke prevention ($96,710,000)
6. Enbrel, to treat arthritis/psoriasis ($90,850,000)
7. Nexium, to treat heartburn/ulcers ($85,540,000)
8. Singulair, to treat asthma/allergies ($79,880,000)
9. Fosamax, to treat osteoporosis ($77,890.000)
10. Effexor XR, to treat depression ($74,330,000)
Report highlights include:
- Several of the top 10 brand-name drugs have either a lower-cost generic equivalent or generic alternative available.
- Brand-name drugs to treat high blood pressure, high
cholesterol and heartburn accounted for 26 percent of the total
spending for prescription medications and, in many cases, these classes
of drugs were prescribed for the same patients.
- Two of 2007’s most costly brands have recently
become available as generics. Generic Fosamax (alendronate) to treat
osteoporosis and generic Protonix (pantoprazole) to treat heartburn
became available in generic form in early 2008.
"Many of these top 10 brand-name drugs have generic
alternatives that could save an average consumer several hundred
dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs," said Joel Owerbach, Pharm. D.,
vice president and chief pharmacy officer at Excellus BCBS. "Generics
also can help reduce overall healthcare spending across upstate New
York by tens of millions of dollars."
"Generic equivalents have the same active ingredients
and effects as their brand-name counterparts, but can cost 30 percent
to 80 percent less than the brand," Owerbach said. "There are also
generic alternatives for some brand-name drugs that do not have the
identical active ingredients, but are effective in treating the same
Excellus BCBS has a multi-faceted campaign underway to
encourage consumers to ask their doctors and pharmacists if there is a
generic or over-the-counter drug that can be substituted for a
brand-name prescription drug they’re taking. The health plan also
has tools available on its Web site to identify generic options to
brand name drugs and estimate the annual savings that could result from
switching to an appropriate generic equivalent.
Address: Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, 150 North Main St., Suite 1, Elmira, NY 13901; (607) 734-1551, www.excellus.com.