Published Online: Thursday, November 1, 2007

The proportion of generic drugs prescribed for patients of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina increased sharply as a result of the plan?s new and ?more aggressive strategy for pushing generics,? researchers at Health- Leaders-InterStudy said.

In an analysis of cost-saving initiatives underway at the North Carolina Blues, the researchers credited the plan?s ?free generics? program with boosting the proportion of generic drugs prescribed, from 37% of all prescriptions in 2001 to 62% in 2007. Those same researchers reported that health insurers in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, are working to reduce pharmaceutical costs by employing a variety of strategies, including tiered pricing and the total elimination of copays for generic drugs.

According to that analysis, the emphasis on generics was prompted by a significant upsurge in prescriptiondrug costs over the past few years. The researchers found that average weighted pharmacy expenses for Mid-Atlantic plans rose from $26 to $33 per member, per month, from 2004 to 2006.

?Most large commercial insurers saw their pharmacy costs increase in the Mid-Atlantic anywhere from 8% to 14%,? according to HealthLeaders- InterStudy.

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