Private health insurance companiesare following the lead of thebrand name pharmaceutical industryby using sales tactics to encouragepatients to save money with genericequivalents of their prescriptions.The companiesare offering free samples ofthe drugs, lowering orwaiving copayments forthem, and marketing themdirectly to patients in theirdoctors' offices. Becausepart of the money-saving strategy ofmost generics companies is not touse such methods, health insurers arestepping in to help by such measuresas installing ATM-like machines indoctors' offices that allow physiciansto dispense free samples of genericmedicines.
The aggressive campaign arrives asmany branded drugs are coming offpatent protection and faceconsiderable openness togeneric rivalry. In 2006alone, an estimated $20billion in brand name drugswill lose patent protection,including such blockbustersas Zocor (simvastatin)and Zoloft (sertraline), which arealready available as generics. Thehealth insurers are hoping that even asmall shift to generic usage will reaplarge benefits for their bottom lines.