Published Online: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A recent study focusing on cardiovascular medications showed that US seniors with the lowest incomes or no prescription drug coverage were not readily choosing generic drugs. The study, which was reported in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, was conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who urged doctors to be more aggressive about suggesting generic drugs to their senior patients.

Alex D. Federman,MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the school and lead author of the study, stressed that "one obvious cost-saving approach [when buying medicines] is the use of generic medications." Dr. Federman and colleagues studied generic cardiovascular (CV) drug use in a nationwide sample of elderly Medicare beneficiaries with hypertension (which was used as a model of chronic disease in the United States because of its high prevalence); the greater variety of generic CV drugs; and the high prescription drug costs linked with the disease. The findings showed that older patients with CV diseases often use costly brand name drugs when equivalent but lower-cost generic versions are available.

"The patients that we were concerned about are low-income and underinsured seniors. Our findings show this group in particular are missing opportunities to save money on prescription drugs without sacrificing quality of care," noted Dr. Federman. "Physicians must take an active role to address this problem by prescribing equivalent, lower-cost generic versions when available."

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