Published Online: Thursday, March 1, 2007

Pharmacists would be required to fill Medicare Part D prescriptions with a generic product unless the brand name drug is determined to be "medically necessary," under new legislation being considered in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen Herb Kohl (D, Wisc), was modeled after similar provisions in many state-administered Medicaid programs.

Under Kohl's proposed Generics First Act, seniors would be guided "toward cost-saving generic drug alternatives" in hopes of reducing costs for both taxpayers and Medicare recipients. "We know generic drugs have the potential to save seniors thousands of dollars and curb health spending for the federal government, employers, and families," Kohl told Congress. "Generics, which on average cost 63% less than their brand name counterparts, are a big part of the solution to health care costs that are spiraling out of control," Kohl said. He said he was encouraged to introduce the pro-generic legislation after hearing "some remarkable success stories from some who have turned to generic drugs."

During last year's hearings before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, "General Motors (GM) testified that, in 2005, they spent $1.9 billion on prescription drugs, 40% of their total health care spending," Kohl told the Senate. "Their program to use generics first, when a generic drug is available, saves GM nearly $400 million a year."

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