Docs' shunning of generics drives up health costs

Physicians who put three simple words on prescriptions could be condemning their patients to not follow the regimen, reports Reuters Health. Writing "dispense as written" on prescriptions rules out the use of lower-priced generics and makes patients less likely to purchase the needed medication, according to a study published in this month's American Journal of Medicine.

"There's a small population of doctors that still express concern about generics," said Dr. William Shrank, a member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, which examined some 5.6 million prescriptions filled at CVS Caremark pharmacies during the course of one month. Of those, 8 percent went unfilled. However, the rate reached 12 percent when there was a "dispense as written" order from the physician.

"It's important that physicians think very carefully about whether or not the patient needs that particular brand of medication," noted Dr. Alex Federman, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study.

By extrapolating these findings out to a national level, the study's authors concluded that consumers could save $1.2 billion a year by not having to purchase brand-name drugs, and the healthcare system could save $7.7 billion in unnecessary care.

For more:
- read the Reuters Health report
- read the study