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Generics Contribute to Pharmaceutical Growth

The introduction of several new generic drugs was among the top pharmaceutical developments in 2003, according to Express Scripts' fifth annual year-end report on events and trends influencing prescription drug prices and use. Other major developments included Congressional passage of the Medicare bill, the struggle over Canadian drug importation, and the availability of Claritin (loratadine) and Prilosec (omeprazole) as OTC products.

Throughout 2003, generic drugs were a key factor in decreasing the rate of cost increases in prescription drug benefits. "We're in the midst of the biggest patent-expiration cycle in history with as many as 40 key drugs-worth more than $30 billion-slated to lose patent protection by 2007," said Barrett Toan, chairman and chief executive officer of Express Scripts, one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit managers.

For example, 5 significant generic drugs entered the marketplace in 2003, including paroxetine and mirtazapine for treating depression, tamoxifen for treating breast cancer, and metformin XR and glipizide XL for treating type-2 diabetes.