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

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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.

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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).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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