Medicare beneficiaries who choose lower-cost generic alternatives to treat a variety of major health disorders could save between $2300 and $5000 per year on their prescription drug costs, according to a new analysis by Consumers Union. The biggest savings would accrue for patients who switch from high-priced branded drugs to lower-cost generics to treat high cholesterol, depression, arthritis and post-heart attack pain, and high blood pressure. Even those enrolled in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program could reap significant savings, because choosing lower-cost generic alternatives could delay or eliminate the gap in Medicare Part D coverage known as the "doughnut hole."
These savings could also benefit other taxpayers. For example, if all Medicare beneficiaries taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol switched to generics, the savings for taxpayers could be about $8 billion a year starting in 2007, or up to 10% of the Medicare drug plan's estimated overall expenditures over the next decade.