Published Online: Monday, October 1, 2007

Third-party patients with new prescriptions for pricey antidepressant drugs will be encouraged to seek out cheaper generic versions under an innovative new "Generics First Antidepressant Program" initiated by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. Noting that more generics are available today for patients suffering from depression, officials at Regence said that the "evidence indicates that most antidepressants are equally effective when comparable doses are used." Under the plan, Regence patients currently on the name-brand antidepressant drugs Cymbalta (duloxetine HCl), Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate), Paxil CR (paroxetine HCl), and Effexor XR (venlafaxine HCl) will not need prior authorization for continued coverage. Those with new prescriptions will, however.

"For members starting on one of the brand name antidepressants listed, Regence has asked physicians to prescribe a generic antidepressant such as citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, sertraline, mirtazapine, or bupropion SR first," the company said. "These generics are a good value for members," as they cost an average of less than half the price of branded versions, according to Regence.

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