GENERIC DRUGS HAVE ARRIVED?

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Recently, I attended the Generic PharmaceuticalAssociation (GPhA) annual meeting. The image ofgeneric pharmaceuticals has really changed. It wasnot that long ago that generic drug manufacturersand the products they made were criticized by many. Theimage of the generic drug product was that of a poor imitationof the branded product that you took at some risk. Thatis not true today. In February, Novartis AG, the Swiss pharmaceuticalcompany, announced that it was buying 2 genericdrug companies for $8.4 billion. No one would make thiskind of investment in generic drug products without someassurance that these products are well accepted, are an importantpart of the entire drug market, and have a brightfuture. Novartis AG must think generic drugs have arrived.At the GPhA conference, I heard the administrator of theCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. MarkMcClellan, former FDA commissioner, state that "genericdrugs are just as safe but cost less, and we absolutely needtheir increased use."He was speaking about the newMedicare Part D program becoming operational in 2006, butsuch an endorsement suggests that he thinks generic drugshave arrived.

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

Finally, in conversations with many community pharmacists,I hear that generic drugs are important to their bottomline. Some have even suggested that they are still in businessbecause generic drug usage has increased to over 50% of allprescriptions filled. They talk about a quality product thatallows them to cover more of their costs. These individualswould say that generic drugs have arrived. With the numberof drugs losing patent protection in the next few years, wewill see more new generic products, and the use of genericdrugs as a percentage of drugs dispensed may increase to over60%. By then, everyone will probably agree that genericdrugs have arrived, if they don't believe it now.