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'Brand-name' vs. generic: Prices main...
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‘Brand-name’ vs. generic: Prices main difference in prescriptions
Pharma News

Price differences between some generic and brand-name prescription drugs are shrinking but for some, generic prescriptions are still the better financial option.

A newly-released database with information on Medicare has many people talking about the cost of generic prescription drugs versus the price of brand-name prescriptions.

The data base found the government purchases more generic prescriptions than brand-name drugs, but spends more money on the brand-names.

While the database gives detailed information previously unavailable to the public, the world of prescription drugs did not change overnight when the government released this data, especially in Oklahoma.

NeoHealth Director of Pharmacy James D. Myers said Oklahoma legislation indicates it is up to the person purchasing the drugs if they will buy a generic or brand-name drug, not the person writing the prescription.

A doctor will likely write the brand name on the prescription, but can write either “substitution allowed,” if a generic drug would be just as affective, or “dispense as written” if the patient requested the brand name.

“Some people still request the brand drug,” said Myers. “The purchaser still controls what drug is dispensed, along with input from the pharmacist.”

Myers also said some insurance companies only pay for certain brand-name drugs, instead of the generic options. But Reasor’s Pharmacist Vicki Ross explained that insurance companies usually want their customers to use generic drugs instead of the more expensive, brand-name drugs.

“They can always talk to their pharmacist if they are worried about price,” said Ross.

One option offered at Reasor’s is a list of prescriptions for $4 for 30 days’ worth, and $10 for 90 days’ worth.

Ross and Myers both said the price of generic drugs has risen in the past few years; Myers even said they have “skyrocketed.”

Ross said brand-name companies typically have 17 years of patent protection before their drug becomes available to the open market.

“But that doesn’t include research development and production,” said Ross. “That’s just at the onset of the idea.”

When the many safety and efficacy requirements are met, the company can bring the drug onto the market, and are then sole-provider of the drug. Ross said this time period usually lasts about 12 years, depending on when the drug first hits the market.

The high price of popular drug brands is in part to pay for the research and development of the product. Brand-name companies are the “innovator,” while companies that make generic options join the market later, and do not really need to market themselves apart from the marketing done by the brand-name product.

Ross compared it to Kleenex facial tissues. Many companies sell facial tissues, but Kleenex is the main company marketing them.

“They’re always on the search for the next treatment,” said Ross. “They’re always looking for the next drug to bring to the marketplace.”

Drugs eventually put forth by makers of generic brands are the same drug originally put on the market by the brand-name company. Fears about a lower quality with the generic drug are “unfounded,” according to Ross.

“Every brand name has a generic name that is the chemical name,” said Ross.

Myers said in the past, there was good reason to fear taking generic drugs. Previously, the Food and Drug Administration did not hold generic drug companies to the same standards as brand-name companies; brand-name companies filed a complaint, and in response, the FDA launched a study and discovered drug regulations were too lax across the market.

Regulations for new prescription drugs became tougher, and generic drugs had to prove they were the exact same dosage, strength and efficacy as brand-name drugs.

“Anything that’s out there, pharmacists in general are comfortable with the generic,” said Myers.

Myers and Ross said both of their pharmacies generally sell more generic drugs than brand-name drugs, and they encourage patients to use generic drugs to cut costs.

But that cost difference, while still large, is shrinking.

Sometimes, when a company’s patent expires, other generic companies want to begin selling the drug quickly, but suppliers often won’t make more product to make the drug, so the supplies become limited and expensive.

Myers said he will often see a sudden influx of a generic drug if another company or a supplier goes out of business but the price is usually higher.

Myers and Ross still believe generic drugs are a better deal for consumers, even with their rising prices.

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