APRIL 01, 2005
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief

Recently, I attended the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) annual meeting. The image of generic pharmaceuticals has really changed. It was not that long ago that generic drug manufacturers and the products they made were criticized by many. The image of the generic drug product was that of a poor imitation of the branded product that you took at some risk. That is not true today. In February, Novartis AG, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, announced that it was buying 2 generic drug companies for $8.4 billion. No one would make this kind of investment in generic drug products without some assurance that these products are well accepted, are an important part of the entire drug market, and have a bright future. Novartis AG must think generic drugs have arrived. At the GPhA conference, I heard the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Mark McClellan, former FDA commissioner, state that "generic drugs are just as safe but cost less, and we absolutely need their increased use."He was speaking about the new Medicare Part D program becoming operational in 2006, but such an endorsement suggests that he thinks generic drugs have arrived.

Also speaking at the GPhA conference was Bill Novelli, chief executive officer of AARP. In his talk, he discussed the importance of generic drugs and stated that his organization would be continuing its campaign to alert seniors that generic drugs are safe and can save them money. AARP must believe that generic drugs have arrived.

Finally, in conversations with many community pharmacists, I hear that generic drugs are important to their bottom line. Some have even suggested that they are still in business because generic drug usage has increased to over 50% of all prescriptions filled. They talk about a quality product that allows them to cover more of their costs. These individuals would say that generic drugs have arrived. With the number of drugs losing patent protection in the next few years, we will see more new generic products, and the use of generic drugs as a percentage of drugs dispensed may increase to over 60%. By then, everyone will probably agree that generic drugs have arrived, if they don't believe it now.