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Cutting Medical Costs Through Generic Drug Use

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You already know that price shopping for medical procedures can save money (Campus Journal "Healthy UNH Website Offers Guidance on Cutting Medical Care Costs": 11-09-11) given the drastic variations that exist hospital to hospital for the same procedure.

Using generic drugs instead of brand names is another way to help keep health care costs down.

Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as their brand name counterparts but can be much less expensive. The difference in cost could save you money and save USNH $250,000 annually.

Prescription medications are either brand name or generic. The brand names are the ones you see advertised on television. They’re trademarked. Generics are often sold under their chemical name. All drugs, regardless of how they are sold, must meet the same standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety, strength, purity and effectiveness.

Generic drugs may look different than the brand name. And they can have different inactive ingredients such as fillers or coatings. The major difference���and it’s a big one when it comes to pricing--is that they are significantly cheaper than brand name drugs because they don’t carry the cost of research or advertising.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, generic drugs save consumers an estimated $8 to $10 billion a year. Harvard Pilgrim’s heath care claims data from 2009 shows the three generic drugs most frequently prescribed to the USNH employees and their dependents are:

  1. Pantoprazole sodium, the generic equivalent of Protonix, used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  2. Buproprion XL, the generic equivalent of Wellbutrin XL, used to treat major depressive disorder.
  3. Venlafaxine HCL XR, the generic equivalent of Effexor XR, used to treat major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

According to CareMark, USNH’s new pharmacy as of Jan. 1, the cost of the generic brand of any of these drugs will be $5 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day mail order. The brand name equivalents cost $40 at a pharmacy and $80 through the mail order pharmacy.

Here’s how that translates into savings for you: a prescription for any of those three brand name drugs would be $480 a year or $320 with a mail order service. The cost of the generic would be $60 a year; $40 for the mail order���a savings of more than $400 a year. That is enough to pay for the family health insurance deductible that begins Jan.1.

If you have any questions or concerns about generic drug use, talk to your health care professional to see which is right for you.