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Will the health care cost savingsrealized through increased use ofgeneric drugs become an issue in nextyear?s presidential election? Somegeneric-industry leaders see that as adistinct possibility, as candidates fromboth parties begin to focus on solutionsto soaring health care spending.

?Cost and access are 2 issues that are dominating ournation?s health care debate,? and ?increasingly, we are hearingpresidential candidates talk about generics?and biogenerics?as a means to address these pressing issues,?Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) President andChief Executive Officer Kathleen Jaeger said.

At least 3 Democratic candidates?Hillary Rodham Clinton,John Edwards, and Barack Obama?have included generics intheir health care proposals. On the other side of the politicalfence, Republican Mitt Romney has expressed support forincreased generic-drug use to help hold down health care costs.

In welcoming the high-profile focus on generic drugs,Jaeger maintained that generics ?are truly the solution toaffordable, quality health care.? She also applauded the initiativeslaunched over the past year by pharmacy chains to furtherreduce the cost of generic medicines to the public.Noting that a 1% increase in generic-drug use can savepatients $4 billion annually, she said that businesses and consumershave also begun to recognize the value of generics.

?In the past year alone, there has been a growing movementto establish programs encouraging the use of genericmedicines,? she said. ?Sixty-three percent of all US prescriptionsdispensed are filled with generics, at costs 30% to 80%lower than brands.?

In addition to lowering costs, there is growing evidence thatgeneric drugs can promote better outcomes for patients.According to Jaeger, ?studies show that when patients takegeneric medicines, they are more likely to keep using themedicines as needed. And patients who maintain their treatmentsare less likely to be hospitalized for their conditions.?

Prescription drugs, which have drawn fire in recent yearsfor helping to drive up overall health care costs, are now gettingcredit for helping to hold those costs down, and theincrease in generic prescribing over the past few years isbeing cited as the key factor in that turnaround. The latestLabor Department statistics show that annual inflation indrug costs is at the lowest rate in 3 decades?a meager 1%.That is less than one fourth of the 4.4% increase in prescriptiondrug prices experienced in 2005.

In part, government economists attribute the decline inprescription inflation to generic-drug price reductions bymajor pharmacy and discount store chains over the pastyear. Efforts by managed care groups to encourage genericprescribing through reduced copays and other strategieswere also instrumental, they said.

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