Using Generic Drugs Could Save Billions of Dollars

Using Generic Drugs Could Save Billions of Dollars

A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association says that the Medicare Part D program could have saved roughly $1.7 billion in 2017 if doctors and patients had actively opted for generic drugs instead of brand name drugs.

The study says the program would have saved $977 million that year if generics had been substituted for all the brand-name medicines requested by prescribers. Additionally, if Medicare patients had sought generics instead of brand-name drugs, Medicare Part D would have saved another $673 million.

As part of our continuing efforts to find ways to lower the costs of prescription drugs, TSCL supports the idea that people should ask their doctors if taking a generic is available and appropriate for their specific ailment.

While not all generics work the same or as well as brand name drugs, they do work much or most of the time and the savings would be enormous.

The conclusions of this study were echoed by a different study published in the medical journal Neurology.

Payments for neurologist-prescribed brand name, but not generic, drugs in Medicare Part D increased consistently and well above inflation from 2013-2017.

According to that study, during a recent five-year period, Medicare spending on hundreds of medicines to treat various neurologic conditions, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, rose 50%, but the number of claims increased only 8%.

Consequently, Medicare spent $4 billion in 2013 but paid out $6 billion by 2017 for these treatments. In addition, neurology medicines, mostly those used to combat multiple sclerosis, accounted for more than 50% of total Medicare payments, despite representing just 4% of all claims filed.

The authors of the study concluded that unless the overall trend stabilizes or is reversed, or high cost-to-claim drugs are addressed, this trend will place an increasing burden on the neurologic Medicare budget.