Resistance To Use Of Generic Medications By Physicians Discouraging

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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"Health care reformers have high hopes that the relentless rise in prescription drug costs can be slowed by replacing brand-name medicines with cheaper generic versions," but "so many physicians are so captive of the drug industry that it would take a huge effort to persuade more patients and doctors to use generics," a New York Times editorial states.

"That discouraging lesson can be drawn" from a recent Times article that "reviewed how a big clinical study organized by the federal government found that a generic drug costing only pennies a day lowered high blood pressure more effectively than did newer, far costlier drugs," according to the editorial.

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The editorial states, "To blunt" the federal "study's impact, pharmaceutical companies initiated heavy marketing campaigns and paid doctors to tout their costlier products," and new "drugs also came along that were not included in the original study, rendering its findings dated." The editorial adds, "The waters were further muddied when some specialists found fault with the design or interpretation of the study and a smaller Australian study reached a different conclusion." According to the editorial, "discouragingly, most of the editorials written about these studies in medical journals took a negative view about substituting generics for the brand-name drugs."

The editorial states, "This history sounds a caution to reformers who want to rely on 'comparative effectiveness' studies to determine which drugs or treatments work best and which are worth paying for," and although that "is no reason to abandon" such studies, "it suggests the need for deep thought on how best to design them and implement the findings."

The editorial concludes, "The researchers speculate that the experts who wrote the editorials may have been influenced by anecdotal experience or by financial ties to the brand-name companies," but "it is disturbing that medical opinion leaders were so reluctant to accept the finding that generic drugs worked as well as their costlier competitors" (New York Times, 12/10).

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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