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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: Oct. 14, 2008
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 condition."

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,

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

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