So far, generic drugs have not gone viral in America

August 10, 2009

A new study by Prescription Solutions and UnitedHealth Group says that Americans have been slow to embrace the use of generic drugs.

Key Points

When it comes to generic drugs, American consumers have much to learn about their cost, ingredients, and effectiveness, according to a recently released study by Prescription Solutions and UnitedHealth Group.

Generic drugs have saved the health system an estimated $734 billion over the past decade. Still, many Americans are apprehensive about using them. The study found that nearly a third of Americans surveyed don't believe generics have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs, or are as effective. Two-thirds of those surveyed did not understand that generics are usually less expensive than brand-name drugs.

"Using generics helps make healthcare more affordable without compromising results. Many Americans erroneously believe that the most expensive drug is always the most effective drug," said Jacqueline Kosecoff, CEO of Prescription Solutions, a pharmacy benefit management organization. "By helping change perceptions, we can help people save money and still get the best treatment available."

The study also showed that 21 percent of respondents had spoken to their physicians or pharmacists about switching to less expensive drugs. Of those who regularly take generics, 64 percent said that their physicians had suggested generics and 43 percent said their pharmacists had done so.

Nearly half, 47 percent, of all survey respondents take generics, with 82 percent of that group saying they do so because of the lower cost. Of those who do not take generics, 58 percent said there is no generic equivalent available for the drug they need. Of those who don't take generics, 58 percent said they would, if their pharmacists offered identical, less expensive substitutes.