Medicare data shows savings to be made with generics use

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Despite generics accounting for far more claims in the US Medicare system than brand-name drugs, the total costs for each drug still came in much lower than costlier but much less used brand-name drugs.

Pay for Delay DrugsMoneyGeneric V13F21

Data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on 30 April 2015 showed that the top ten drugs according to the most claimed by beneficiaries in the Medicare# system were all generics, see Table 1.

Table 1: Top 10 drugs by number of claims (2013)

GW2150 Table1

The number of claims ranged from 21.0 to 36.9 million and the total drugs costs for each drug ranged from US$145 million to US$911 million.

In contrast, the top 10 drugs by cost were all brand-name drugs, see Table 2. All of the drugs in Table 2 also had much lower claims than the generics from Table 1.

Table 2: Top 10 drugs by cost (2013)

GW2150 Table2

The number of claims ranged from as few as 150,000 claims to as many as more than nine million claims, but still not even close to the 36.9 million in Table 1. Total drug costs for each drug in Table 2 were all more than US$1 billion. This is significantly more than the total costs for the generics in Table 1, where the maximum total drug costs reached a mere US$911 million.

The tables show that cholesterol-lowering drugs and diabetes treatments are being used increasingly in the US, with three of each type of these drugs making one of the top 10 tables.

The data backs up the fact that generics provide significant savings to the US, with many more patients being treated for less money compared to the brand-name drugs. A report published by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) showed that generics saved consumers and the US healthcare system US$239 billion in 2013 and have saved the US nearly US$1.5 trillion between 2004 and 2013 [1].

#Medicare is a national social insurance programme, administered by the US federal government since 1966. It provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system, as well as to younger people with disabilities.

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1.   GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Generics save US 1.5 trillion over last 10 years []. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2015 May 22]. Available from:

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Source: CMS

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