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Rx Watchdog: Seniors Save $ with Generics
A recent study released by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reveals that in 2008, the prices of widely used generic drugs fell by an average of 10.6%, and the vast majority (83%) of generics did not change in price, despite an increase in general inflation.
“Switching to generic drugs whenever possible is one of the quickest and easiest ways to drastically reduce your health care bills,” noted AARP Public Policy Director John Rother. The AARP researchers, examining the prices of drugs most widely prescribed to Medicare Part D beneficiaries, reported that the price of brand name prescription drugs rose 9% in 2008.
As part of its health reform campaign, AARP is urging Congress to address the rising cost of prescription drugs, particularly through policies that will bring more generic competition to the marketplace. Cost-saving measures include allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers and allowing the legal importation of safe prescription drugs from abroad.
The complete AARP “Rx Watchdog Report” is available at www.aarp.org/ research/health/drugs/rx_watchdog. html.
Manufacturer Launches Biologics Clock to Raise Awareness
Although biogenerics are widely available in Europe and other parts of the world, the United States is a different matter because it currently has no legislative pathway to get them approved. To bring more attention to the cost-saving benefits of generic versions of biologics, Hospira Inc, a leading manufacturer of generic injectable pharmaceuticals, has launched a “Biologics Clock” to track real-time US prescription sales of biologic drugs, currently estimated at $42 billion a year.
The clock is available at www. hospira.com and ticks at a rate of $1331 in US spending per second; it is part of a Web resource highlighting the potential impact of biogenerics on US health care. The manufacturer reports that patients, their families, insurance providers, and the government spend more than $115 million on biologics every day, whereas biogenerics bring cost savings of 20% to 30% in other parts of the world where there is greater access to them.
More Momentum for Follow-on Biologics
The effort to create an expedited approval process for follow-on biologics (FOBs) gained steam last month with the release of a new report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The report states that a legislative pathway for an abbreviated approval process for FOBs would help lower costs.
Bills to create the pathway are currently pending in the US House of Representatives (HR 1427) and Senate (S 726), and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senator Edward Kennedy (D, MA), has anticipated such a pathway in his committee’s draft health care reform bill.
The FTC report also states that a 12- to 14-year exclusivity period before cheaper generic biologic equivalents can be introduced is too long. “If Congress creates an efficient pathway to follow-on biologic drugs and, at least as important, ends ‘payfor- delay’ pharmaceutical settlements that delay entry of traditional generic drugs, it will be taking a major step forward to both health care reform and affordable drugs for all Americans,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
New Jersey Looks to Require Notice of Generic Swaps
New Jersey would be the first state in the nation to require pharmacies to notify patients when generic drugs are substituted for their brand name counterparts if a bill unanimously passed by both legislative chambers is signed into law.
The legislation (A2030) would mandate that pharmacists include on Rx drug labels the name of the brand name drug and the generic drug when a generic drug is dispensed. Its chief sponsor in the New Jersey Assembly, Ronald Dancer (R, Ocean), said that, “consumers should be fully informed about the drug products they are receiving.”
Debra Wentz, PhD, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, said it is easy for patients, especially those with mental health issues, to get overwhelmed when dealing with medical issues. “Many times, individuals may become confused or distressed when they notice changes in their medicine,” she said.
Under current state law, unless the prescribing physician explicitly states that there shall be no generic substitution when transmitting a prescription over the phone or checks the “do not substitute” box on the Rx pad, then the generic product must be dispensed if it would result in a lower cost to the consumer. If Governor Jon Corzine signs the measure, it would become effective within 180 days. ■