Generic Discount Drug Program Gains Popularity Despite Low Initial Uptake

Although the initial uptake of the generic discount drug program (GDDP) was essentially nonexistent among vulnerable populations, patients' participation in the GDDP notably expanded as it matured.

Although the initial uptake of the generic discount drug program (GDDP) was essentially nonexistent among vulnerable populations, a research letter published online September 22, 2014, in JAMA Internal Medicine found patients’ participation in the GDDP notably expanded as it matured.

First introduced by Walmart in 2006, the GDDP charges patients nominal fees to fill prescriptions with generic drugs, which reduces medication costs and increases access to necessary therapies, especially among the elderly, poor, and racial/ethnic minority populations. Despite these clear benefits, the initial use of the GDDP in 2007 was calculated at 3.6% of patients receiving any prescription drugs.

“The lower initial uptake of the GDDP among racial/ethnic minorities raises the question: why would patients who gain more from GDDPs be less likely to use them?” wrote research coauthors Song Hee Hong, PhD, and Sunghee H. Tak, PhD, MPH, RN. “We aimed to determine whether the uptake of the GDDP increased as the program matured and to examine whether factors affecting the uptake of the GDDP have remained steady over time.”

To do so, Dr. Hong and Dr. Tak relied on 2010 Household Component and Prescribed Medicines files to evaluate adults who had received at least 1 prescription drug in 2010.

Of the 13,486 adults who met those inclusion criteria, 3208 (23%) used the GDDP in 2010, which was found to be valued more among the elderly, sicker, uninsured, and rural populations. GDDP use did not significantly vary across different income levels and racial/ethnic groups, however, suggesting that the program was “not considered inferior despite the common perception that generic drugs are of poor quality,” noted Dr. Hong and Dr. Tak.

“The lower use of GDDPs among racial/ethnic minorities observed when the program was deployed no longer existed when the program matured,” the authors concluded. “Individuals within this population may have taken longer to adopt the GDDP because they lacked health insurance literacy. Alternatively, individuals among racial/ethnic minorities may have lacked broadband access to gain firsthand knowledge of GDDP deployment.”

In 2010, typical GDDP offerings consisted of $4 for 30-day generic drug supplies and $10 for 90-day supplies provided by Walmart, Target, and Kroger, while Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and Kmart had other GDDP offerings, Dr. Hong and Dr. Tak reported.