Prescribing generic drugs lowers cost, ups patient adherence

By Aine Cryts

Approximately 88 percent of prescriptions filled in the United States are for generic drugs--and they account for only 28 percent of expenditures, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. Within a year of a generic version of a drug coming on the market, its price falls 80 percent or more, according to the organization.

That's great news for bending the cost curve in healthcare. Here are some additional reasons that physicians should consider prescribing generic medications:

Greater likelihood that patients will take the medicine as prescribed. When patients receive prescriptions for brand-name drugs, they're twice as likely to not ever pick them up from the pharmacy, according to a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That's largely because of brand-name drugs' higher out-of-pocket costs.

A study of 90,000 Medicare patients who were prescribed a statin, for example, revealed that patients who received a generic form of the drug were 6 percent more adherent to taking the drug than those who received a brand-name version of the drug, the Annals piece noted.

Patients report similar satisfaction with generic drugs. Patients who take brand-name versions of drugs--instead of generics--are no more satisfied with their results, according to NPR.

Generic medications are generally the equivalent of brand-name versions, Joseph Ross, M.D., associate professor of medicine and a health policy researcher at Yale University School of Medicine, told the news outlet when asked about patient experience findings revealed by Iodine, a website that has captured reviews from more than 100,000 Americans about their experience with approximately 500 drugs lists on its site.

"Unfortunately, many patients and physicians are convinced to spend more and use the brand-name medication by marketing initiatives," he continued, "including advertisements on the television or drug coupons that promise similar out-of-pocket expenses for the higher-cost brand-name medications."

More precise wording boosts use of generic alternatives. The Annals of Internal Medicine report found that many doctors continue to refer to drugs by their original brand name--and this is well after generic versions of the drug are on the market. This fact alone can result in physicians prescribing the more expensive, brand-name versions.

Patients exhibit similar behavior when referring to brand-name drugs. More than half of physicians prescribed brand-name drugs when patients requested those specific drugs by name, as reported previously in FiercePracticeManagement.

To learn more:
- review the National Center for Policy Analysis' findings
- check out the Annals of Internal Medicine article
- read the NPR story