Generic drug sales net millions in savings

September 27, 2013 Updated May 6, 2010 at 8:11 AM EDT

By Business First of Buffalo - by Tracey Drury

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Generic drug sales net millions in savings

September 27, 2013 Updated May 6, 2010 at 8:11 AM EDT

The continued use of generic drugs as an alternative to higher-priced brand name drugs resulted in a savings of $127 million last year in the 39-county Upstate region.

The savings in the eight-county region totaled $31.2 million, according to an updated report of prescription patterns released this week by Univera Healthcare.

The analysis shows an increase year over year of about 1 percentage point in the generic fill rate from 68.4 percent to 69.5 percent. Univera's findings for 2009, added to previous company analyses, show that since October 2005, communitywide savings from increasing use of generic drugs has totaled more than $853 million.

Since Univera released its first generic drug savings report in late 2005, usage of generics has grown by 15.7 percentage points.

Joel Owerbach, vice president and chief pharmacy officer for Univera, said in a prepared release the savings generated by the use of generics is realized by both consumers, who save money at the pharmacy through lower copays and out-of-pocket costs, as well as employers. Lower costs also often become the added incentive patients need to continue taking their medication as prescribed, he said.

In the five upstate regions studied, the Western New York, Finger Lakes and Central New York regions each saw savings of about $31 million; the Utica/Rome/North County region had estimated savings of $18 million; while the Binghamton/Southern Tier region saved $14.5 million.

And usage of generics is expected to continue to grow in 2010 as new generic drugs have become available since late 2009 and early 2010.

The greatest savings on prescription drugs over the past five years, have come from two drug classes: proton pump inhibitors to treat heartburn/acid reflux and statin drugs to treat high cholesterol. The difference in costs is significant: Univera cited monthly therapy costs of Prevacid, a branded proton pump inhibitor, at almost $200 per month, compared to about $60 per month for the generic version.

"We anticipate a big spike in prescription drug cost savings when the patent for Lipitor expires in 2011," Owerbach said. "Our estimates show that Upstate New Yorkers spent more than $170 million to fill some 1.4 million prescriptions for Lipitor in 2009."

The generic fill rate analysis in upstate New York was based on prescription consumption patterns of approximately 1 million people living in 39 counties of Upstate New York from October 2008 to October 2009, which were then extrapolated to the larger population of those counties.

The latest report is available online at univerahealthcare.com.