Generic drug dispensing reached a record high in 2012, according to the 2013 National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA’s) 2013 NCPA Digest
sponsored by Cardinal Health.
According to the Digest
, community pharmacists dispensed generic drugs 77% of the time. It is an increase of 1 percentage point from 2012 dispensing rates and an increase of 6 percentage points from 2011, when pharmacists dispensed generic drugs 72% of the time.
In addition, the report determined that 94% of independent pharmacists recommend switches to generic drugs when appropriate, with the recommended switch to a generic drug being accepted in 81% of cases. The data are relatively similar to data collected in 2011, as pharmacist recommendations for generic substitution remained consistent and 83% of recommendations were accepted that year.
When combined with therapeutic interchange recommendations, the 2013 report determined that independent pharmacists consult with physicians approximately 7.5 times daily regarding prescription drug therapy.
Independent community pharmacists’ recommendations on therapeutic changes were accepted in 70% of cases, the report continued.
“Independent community pharmacists are playing a larger role than ever in improving health and cutting costs through the promotion of medication adherence and proper use of generic drugs,” B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, NCPA CEO said in a press release. “The Digest
reinforces the value and diverse nature of the care provided by trusted community pharmacists. Small business community pharmacy owners and pharmacists look forward to continuing to work to help policymakers and health plan sponsors enhance patient outcomes and reduce expenses.”
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) commended the increase in generic dispensing while acknowledging the independent community pharmacist’s role.
“The Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) applauds new findings from the National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA) 2013 NCPA Digest
, particularly the positive role that medication adherence and generic pharmaceuticals play in reducing costs for millions of people,” GPhA President Ralph G. Neas said in a press release.
The release went on to note the savings achieved through generic pharmaceutical use, particularly in light of efforts to lower health care costs.
“Generic medicines remain one of the few proven, reliable ways to reduce health costs, generating savings of 1 trillion dollars over the past decade,” Neas continued. “Independent community pharmacies, which the report states now number 23,029 across America, are valued partners in the generic pharmaceutical industry’s ongoing efforts to lower health costs and provide more affordable treatment options, especially in rural and underserved regions.”
Still, independent pharmacies face at least 1 hurdle when using generic drugs, as pharmacists see disparity between the prices to purchase generic drugs and the reimbursement they receive from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), according to NCPA President-elect Mark Riley, RPh. In several cases, the PBM reimbursement does not cover the cost to purchase the drug—so pharmacists must either swallow the additional cost or pass it along to their patients.
The root of the generic drug conundrum is the maximum allowable cost “MAC” list used by most plan payers or PBMs. By using a low reimbursement MAC price list for pharmacies, and a higher-priced list when selling to clients or plan sponsors, PBMs create additional revenue, an NCPA fact sheet stated.
“When they take care of the patients, many times they are having to do it at a loss, charging less than they actually paid for the drug,” Riley said in an October 15 press call held during the NCPA’s annual meeting. “It’s untenable. We are working very hard to get folks to address that need and to keep up with the pricing of the drugs.”
The disparity between reimbursement and purchasing costs for generic drugs is among NCPA’s priorities for 2014. At least 4 states, including Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, and North Dakota, enacted legislation pertaining to PBM pricing transparency in 2013, and the organization hopes to see similar legislation enacted in other states.