The researchers analyzed four drugs: Allegra, Arava, Amaryl and Zithromax. In the second half of 2005, each of these drugs run out of patent protection. Their generic equivalents were bought instead at an average factor of 87 percent within 30 days of the equivalent’s delivery at pharmacies.
The research was organized by Medco Health Solutions Inc. based in Frankin Lakes, which is the biggest drug benefit management company in U.S. The company bargains for low prices of prescription drug on behalf of its customers.
According to the study, Zithromax, the blockbuster of Pfizer Inc. with its annual sales of $1.85 billion was rapidly substituted at pharmacies by generic equivalent at a 90 percent rate just after it lost its patent protection in November.
The study authors mentioned the substitution of Zithromax, an antibiotic for respiratory infections, as evidence that more and more doctors prescribe generic versions of brand name drugs more easily, even if it is about so-called acute care drugs, such as Zithromax.
“The really good news is that these four generic medications are just the start. With a number of popular medications expected to move off patent in the next several years, we should see substantial prescription drug costs savings” – stated a Medco senior vice president, Dr. Glen Stettin.
A spokeswoman at Medco, Ann Smith stated that more than 70 brand name drugs, including 19 blockbusters, are losing their patent protection within the next five years – with total yearly sales of $45 billion.
If Medco’s study reveals a long-term trend, in the coming years consumers, employers and insurance companies will save billions of dollars in prescription drug – Smith said.
The data met with enthusiastic reaction from consumer groups.
“We hope the trend continues. It’s good for consumers,” confessed Bill Vaughan, senior policy analyst for an advocacy group, Consumer Union, based in Washington, D.C.
Vaughan mentioned that past fears concerning the effectiveness and safety of generic drugs have apparently started to fade away as society has become more concerned about rapid increase of health-care costs.
“The FDA approves these generic drugs because they have been determined just as safe and effective as their brand name counterparts, but you pay a fraction of the price,” Vaughan stated. “We think this is very positive and can save consumers literally billions of dollars in the next few years.”
At the same time, large pharmaceutical companies have claimed that their brand name drugs will not be substituted by knockoffs as insurers and doctors realize that the brand name drugs guarantee better care and in consequence – save money.
Hank McKinnell, Pfizer Chairman used that argument during last session with analysts in New York.
“If you don’t like the high cost of health care, try the high cost of sickness,” McKinnell advised.