Published Online: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

With millions of American seniors entering the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole," participants in the Medicare prescription drug program are being urged to turn to generic drugs to hold down their medication costs.

Under the new Part D Medicare drug benefit, seniors whose prescription drug expenditures exceed $2250 are responsible for paying 100% of the cost of their medication until coverage resumes, when total annual expenditures reach $5100.

The gap between those 2 thresholds, known as the doughnut hole, has forced many Medicare recipients to resume paying full price for their prescription medicines. To cope with these sudden expenses, government officials are urging seniors to turn to lower-cost generic drugs.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Aging, former Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, urged seniors to consider using generics to hold down costs because these products "are just as safe and effective as brand name versions." Predicting that more Medicare drug plans offering coverage for generic drugs will be introduced next year, Dr. McClellan said that Part D "plans that don't do well with generics are not going to do well in this program."

Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy Director of Pharmacy Affairs Marissa Schlaifer echoed Dr. McClellan's advice, noting that "to avoid falling into the doughnut hole," seniors should "make use of generic drugs whenever appropriate." Visit the ePharmacyTimes Web site at www.pharmacytimes.com/articleNewsletter.cfm?ID=3930 for more on the doughnut hole dilemma.

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