Pharmacy Times
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Thanks to the availability of lower-costgeneric drugs, American patients and taxpayerswill save $24.7 billion this year alone,according to a new analysis by ExpressScripts. The study, which was based on arandom sample of approximately 3 millionindividuals, reflects the impact of genericcompetition for 2 widely prescribed drugs—the anticholesterol medication Zocor (simvastatin;$3.1 billion in 2005 sales) and theantidepressant Zoloft (sertraline; $2.6 billion).Both of these drugs will lose patentprotection this year.

"The savings opportunity from increaseduse of generic drugs has never been greater," Express Scripts officials said. "More than $50billion worth of branded drugs will losepatent exclusivity over the next 5 years," including 16 drugs with $14.3 billion in currentsales, which will face generic competitionfor the first time this year. Although, onaverage, less than 20% of anticholesterol prescriptionsare currently filled with a generic,the approval of a generic version of Zocor willchange that percentage, Express Scripts officialspredicted. By the end of this year, 85%of all prescriptions for anticholesterol medicationscould be filled generically, accordingto the analysis.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to conserveprecious health care dollars by increasingour use of less expensive generic drugsand still achieve the same clinical benefit,"said Express Scripts Chief Medical Officer EdWeisbart, MD. Significantly, however, theanalysis concluded that billions of dollars inpotential savings from generics go unrealizedeach year because of continued utilization ofhigher-priced branded drugs.

During the past 2 years, "failure to takeadvantage of the full potential of generic drugsin the 6 classes resulted in missed savingsopportunities of $20 and $21.3 billion, respectively,"according to Express Scripts.

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