Docs insist on brand-name drugs even when cheaper generics are available

Even though generic prescription drugs may be as effective as brand-name drugs, some physicians continue to prescribe branded drugs out of habit, according to a Washington Post article yesterday.

Currently, all states have generic substitution laws to reduce medication costs, but physicians can override these rules to prescribe brand-name drugs with the words, "dispense as written," according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Physicians wrote 'dispense as written' in 2.7 percent of the 5.6 million prescriptions evaluated, according to the study. That amounts to $7.7 billion a year, notes the Post.

Proponents of healthcare spending reduction and supporters of generic medicine contend that generic drugs are as effective as branded drugs that are oftentimes pricier.

For example, another study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) indicates that there is no difference between brand-name and generic drugs regarding thyroid dysfunction.

"The results from this study provide valuable information for both clinicians and policy makers concerning the prescription of brand name versus generic drugs," said study authors in a CMAJ press release yesterday.

Physicians who stick to prescribing brand-name drugs may be doing so because they trust branded drugs more or simply because they know about them more than generic drugs, according to the Post.

Generic drugs account for 70 percent of all filled prescriptions and make up savings estimated at $33 billion, according to the 2007 Congressional Budget Office, reports the Post.

For more:
- read The Washington Post article
- read the full AJM study
- read the CMAJ press release

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