Mosy Prescriptions Filled By Medicare Beneficiaries Were For Brand-Name Drugs

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the prescription drug benefit are more likely to ask pharmacists for generic medications when they pay for them and for more expensive brand-name treatments when the program provides coverage, according to a study released on Thursday by Medco Health Solutions, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

According to the study, brand-name medications accounted for almost two-thirds of all prescriptions initially filled by Medicare beneficiaries. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries switched to generic medications only after they reached the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap, in which they must cover the full cost of the prescriptions, the study found. The study also found that brand-name medications accounted for 59% of prescriptions filled by Medicare beneficiaries who received catastrophic coverage, under which the program covers 95% of the prescriptions' cost.


Medco Chief Medical Officer Woody Eisenberg said that, when Medicare beneficiaries reach the coverage gap, they "become acutely aware of the cost difference between brand-name and generic drugs and most make the switch."

Tricia Neuman, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the Medicare Policy Project at the foundation, said, "It may be a question of education, that some people simply believe brand-name drugs work better than generics." Research indicates that physicians in most cases do not discuss the potential cost savings of generic medications, Neuman added (Perrone, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25).

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