Generic Drug Pricing Trends

November 5, 2019

Savings totaled $293 billion in 2018.

According to the 

 with data from IQVIA, generic drug savings totaled $293 billion in 2018, which resulted in a 10-year savings of almost $2 trillion. Other key findings include that 4 billion generic prescriptions were filled across the U.S. in 2018, which is 90% of all dispensed prescriptions. Additionally, 95% of generic prescriptions were filled at $20 or less with an average copay of $5.63 whereas the average brand copay is $40.65. In 

, patients who were prescribed more expensive brand products were 2-3 times more likely to leave the pharmacy without their prescriptions. Pharmacists can play an important role in ensuring that patients have access to these generic drug cost savings, which in turn can improve medication adherence and health outcomes.

Cash prices for generic drugs can vary, and a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine set out to analyze prescription drug prices for 10 generic and 6 brand drugs throughout the U.S. This was a national cross-sectional study, and drug pricing data from GoodRx was used to determine cash prices for a one-month supply of generic and brand products from big box, grocery-based, small chain, and independent pharmacies compared with a reference group of large chain pharmacies. 

There were 68,353 pharmacy stores that provided cash prices for the study; results revealed that independent pharmacies and small chains had the highest cash prices for generic drugs, while big box pharmacies had the lowest prices compared with large chains. This study offers an important resource for consumers to search for reliable generic drug prices in their zip code, which may be especially helpful for patients that do not have health insurance. 

Limitations include that the study did not account for price matching, coupons, or other discount programs that individual pharmacies or drug manufacturers may offer. Additionally, the study was conducted in 2015 which may not reflect current drug pricing. According to a previous study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, generic drug prices were lower at independent pharmacies. Therefore, it’s important for patients to do their research when deciding on a pharmacy. 

Large chains offer a variety of generic drug discount programsKroger started a drug discount program, known as the Rx Savings Club, that enables patients to get various generic medications free or at a discount. The Rx Savings Club offers over 100 common generic drugs in three tiers of savings as well as over 1,000 other generics that are available at discounted prices, which can offer up to 85% in savings. Walmart provides a $4 generic prescription program, which is lower than Medicare pricing. Walgreens provides a prescription savings club with a fee to join, and the membership includes discounts on generic drugs, savings on immunizations, and other benefits. Independent pharmacies may also offer unique discount programs, so it is important for patients to inquire about cost saving opportunities.