Will the health care cost savings
realized through increased use of
generic drugs become an issue in next
year?s presidential election? Some
generic-industry leaders see that as a
distinct possibility, as candidates from
both parties begin to focus on solutions
to soaring health care spending.
?Cost and access are 2 issues that are dominating our
nation?s health care debate,? and ?increasingly, we are hearing
presidential candidates talk about generics?and biogenerics?
as a means to address these pressing issues,?
Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) President and
Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Jaeger said.
At least 3 Democratic candidates?Hillary Rodham Clinton,
John Edwards, and Barack Obama?have included generics in
their health care proposals. On the other side of the political
fence, Republican Mitt Romney has expressed support for
increased generic-drug use to help hold down health care costs.
In welcoming the high-profile focus on generic drugs,
Jaeger maintained that generics ?are truly the solution to
affordable, quality health care.? She also applauded the initiatives
launched over the past year by pharmacy chains to further
reduce the cost of generic medicines to the public.
Noting that a 1% increase in generic-drug use can save
patients $4 billion annually, she said that businesses and consumers
have also begun to recognize the value of generics.
?In the past year alone, there has been a growing movement
to establish programs encouraging the use of generic
medicines,? she said. ?Sixty-three percent of all US prescriptions
dispensed are filled with generics, at costs 30% to 80%
lower than brands.?
In addition to lowering costs, there is growing evidence that
generic drugs can promote better outcomes for patients.
According to Jaeger, ?studies show that when patients take
generic medicines, they are more likely to keep using the
medicines as needed. And patients who maintain their treatments
are less likely to be hospitalized for their conditions.?
Prescription drugs, which have drawn fire in recent years
for helping to drive up overall health care costs, are now getting
credit for helping to hold those costs down, and the
increase in generic prescribing over the past few years is
being cited as the key factor in that turnaround. The latest
Labor Department statistics show that annual inflation in
drug costs is at the lowest rate in 3 decades?a meager 1%.
That is less than one fourth of the 4.4% increase in prescription
drug prices experienced in 2005.
In part, government economists attribute the decline in
prescription inflation to generic-drug price reductions by
major pharmacy and discount store chains over the past
year. Efforts by managed care groups to encourage generic
prescribing through reduced copays and other strategies
were also instrumental, they said.