Retail Clinicians Should Encourage Generic Drug Use

November 25th 2015
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor

The American College of Physicians recently advised retail clinicians and other providers to prescribe generic drugs whenever possible in order to reduce costs and improve outcomes.

Reaffirming that generic medications are just as effective as their brand-name equivalents, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recently advised retail clinicians and other providers to prescribe generic drugs whenever possible in order to reduce costs and improve outcomes.

This recommendation was based on the findings of a new study published in theAnnals of Internal Medicine, in which ACP researchers determined that the use of brand-name drugs for which identical generic versions are available accounted for 23% to 45% of prescriptions among Medicare beneficiaries.

Analyzing this data, the study authors estimated that Medicare could save $1.4 billion for patients with diabetes alone by substituting brand-name drugs for their generic equivalents.

The researchers also suggested that a greater utilization of generic medications could also improve long-term therapy adherence, as many patients abandon their treatment due to the high out-of-pocket costs of brand-name drugs.

“While the use of generic drugs has increased over time, clinicians often prescribe more expensive brand name drugs when equally effective, well proven, and less expensive generic versions are available,” said ACP President Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, in a press release.

The study authors acknowledged that there are instances in which brand-name drugs are preferable or where generic substitution is not feasible, but they emphasized that the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies have deemed generic medications to be clinically equivalent to their brand-name counterparts.

ACP proposed several ways to increase the prescribing and use of generic medication, such as providing physicians with free samples of generics to distribute to patients, raising awareness through advertising campaigns, adopting electronic medical records, and making greater use of academic detailing and other interactive forms of continuing medical education.

The organization also cited a previous trial in which providing vouchers to physicians for patient distribution yielded a 2% increase in generic prescribing compared with academic detailing alone.

Another earlier study published inBMC Medicinerevealed that while opinions of generic substitution among physicians, pharmacists, and patients have generally improved, a number of patients believe that the lower price of generics is indicative of a decreased quality.

In aprevious interviewwithPharmacy Times, theBMCstudy’s lead author, Suzanne S. Dunne, explained that health care providers such as retail clinicians and pharmacists can alleviate these concerns by explaining what a generic is and assuring patients of a generic drug’s equivalency to its branded version.

She suggested that providers show patients the ingredients list of both the brand-name and generic versions of a medication in order to help them understand that the drugs share the same active ingredients.

Because generic drugs often differ in appearance or packaging from their brand-name equivalents, providers should also clear up any confusion patients may have by reminding them that these visual details have no impact on a drug’s safety or effectiveness, Dunne added.

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