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Making the Most of Generic Drugs


By Sean Ireland, guest blogger

In today’s economic environment, everyone is looking for ways to save money.  I find myself looking forward to the Sunday paper so I can take an hour or so and clip coupons for the things I buy at the grocery store on a weekly basis. 

As I was gathering my weekly grocery haul, I passed by the Pharmacy counter and noticed a sign that read, “Ask us about how you can get $4 prescriptions”. 

Now, being in the business, I know about these discount generic drug programs, and I know my clients are aware of them because I am constantly advising them on the topic. But the big question was “how many people actually take advantage of these programs?”  And if they don’t, then why not? 

According to Jacqueline Kosecoff, CEO of Prescriptions Solutions, the biggest reason that people do not use generic drugs is because they “erroneously believe that the most expensive drug is always the most effective drug.”

Here are the facts:

  • Generic drugs meet the same requirements set by the FDA that brand-name drugs do
  • Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients, dose forms and strengths as their brand-name equivalent
  • Over 50% of all prescriptions currently filled in the U.S. are filled using generic drugs
  • Many companies who make brand-name drugs also make many of the generic drugs that are their brand-name alternative

Another misconception about generic drugs is the amount of brand-name drugs that have generic equivalents.  People do not think that the drug they are using has a generic alternative. 

In many instances, I have had people do their research and find that medications they are taking do have a generic alternative.  Here is a short list that includes some of the more popular maintenance brand-name drugs that currently have a generic equivalent:

Allegra (Fexofenadine)                                               Prozac (Fluoxetine)                             
Ativan (Lorazepam)                                                     Valium (Diazepam)
Coumadin (Warfarin)                                                  Zocor (Simvastatin)
Paxil (Paroxetine)                                                         Zoloft (Sertraline)

So you’re saying, “Great. These facts are very informative, but what does this mean for me and my family?”

Let’s talk savings. In the past decade, generic drugs have saved the health care system $734 billion and recent data suggests that a 1% increase in generic drug use equates to a 1.7% savings for payers, including employers.  As for the consumer, individuals who switch to generics save an average of $20 - $60 per prescription. 

Some more good news is that access to low-cost generics is widespread. Locally, many of the major pharmacy chains offer generic prescription programs where a one-month supply is $4 and a 90-day supply is $10.  These retailers include Giant, Giant Eagle, Weis Markets, Wal-Mart and Target.  Not a bad deal if you ask me!  Also, these stores’ websites should have a formulary of all generic drugs that qualify for the $4/10 program, but make sure you check - the formularies do differ slightly and a drug that is not on one formulary could be on another.

Hopefully, this will motivate you to do some research of your own to see if the prescriptions you currently use have generic alternatives.  If they do, and the generics work as well as the
brand-names, the yearly savings you realize could be quite substantial.  To make this an even better deal, use the money from your HSA/FSA (if you have one) to pay for these prescriptions. 

 Sean Ireland is an Account Executive with USI Affinity’s Benefits Solutions Group.




Its true that generic medicines work the same and are alot more cheaper than the brand medicines.

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