Increased use of generic cholesterol drugs by the nation's seniors could reduce total Medicare costs by $8.2 billion next year, officials at Consumers Union (CU) said. "Lower-cost cholesterol drugs are just as effective and safe, and the savings from switching to them could be dramatic,"CU said in its on-line "Best Buy Drugs"report.
Much of the savings envisioned by the consumer group would come from persuading patients to switch from Pfizer's Lipitor to the generic lovastatin, or to generic versions of Zocor (simvastatin), which are expected to reach the market later this year.
Statins such as Lipitor are expected to cost Medicare and its beneficiaries $14 billion next year alone, and the cost of these drugs could reach as much as $215 billion between now and 2015about 11% of all spending under the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, CU said.
According to CU, Lipitor should remain the drug of choice for patients whose cholesterol is significantly elevated or who need a more potent statin because they are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Others who require only a modest reduction in cholesterol should be switched to generics, the organization said.