Use Of $4 Generic Drug Programs Could Save Society Billions Of Dollars, Study Shows
The study examined a large group of people who used generic medications or their brand-name counterparts - drugs like lovastatin or prescription-strength ibuprofen - that also were available for $4 per 30-day supply through a discounted generic drug program. The study found that among the patients taking these medications, less than 6 percent used the $4 generic medication programs in 2007, even though on average prescription drug coverage plans ask patients to pay about $10 per 30-day supply for generic drugs and about $25 per 30-day supply for brand-name medications.
Had all eligible patients used the discount programs in 2007, the societal savings would have been $5.8 billion.
"Although just half of the potential users of the $4 programs would have saved more than $22 a year in out-of-pocket expenses, the societal savings are great. This suggests the majority of savings comes from a small proportion of individuals," said the study's lead author, Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of health policy and management, GSPH.
The researchers examined a nationally representative sample of nearly 31,000 people in the 2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and identified patients who could have saved money had they filled their medications through a discount generic drug program. The researchers calculated potential savings as the difference between the actual prescription payments recorded in MEPS and the $4 the patients would have paid through a discount program.
"We are not promoting any specific pharmacy or any retail store's discount generic medication program," Dr. Zhang said. "However, if policy makers and clinicians direct patients to low-cost generic programs, patients and taxpayers could save tremendously."
The study was funded by the RAND University of Pittsburgh Health Institute and the National Institutes of Health-funded Clinical and Translational Science Institute: Translating Research into Practice Program. Co-authors include Lei Zhou, M.S., of GSPH, and Walid F. Gellad, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the RAND Corp.
Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
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