Report: Generic prescription drugs saved South Carolina $3.7 billion in 2015

Generic prescription medicines saved South Carolinians $3.7 billion in 2015, according to a report released this week by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA).

That amount includes $1.9 billion in savings to commercial insured health plans, $1.2 billion in savings to Medicare and $356 billion in savings to Medicaid, according to the 2016 Generic Drug Savings & Access in the United States report, compiled by the QuintilesIMS Institute on behalf of GPhA.

Overall, the report found $227 billion in savings nationwide from the use of generic drugs in 2015, which was an increase of 328 percent during the period 2005-2016. 

"Generic drugs are the foundation of any successful effort to lower health spending and increase patient access to affordable medicine,” said Chip Davis, President and CEO, GPhA. “A diverse group of experts — the federal government, pharmacy benefit managers, consumer groups and others — agree that generic drugs drive system savings, not costs. More can be done to increase patient access to safe, effective and more affordable generic medicines.”

The report release comes a week after a the industry association for pharmacy benefit managers released a study finding that greater optimization of generic drugs by state Medicaid programs could save Medicaid $26.5 billion.

That report, conducted by The Menges Group for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), also found that $2.4 billion could be saved by encouraging the use of more affordable, preferred brands.

“There is a real budgetary opportunity for federal and state policymakers to reduce costs while making Medicaid benefits more robust and sustainable,” said Mark Merritt, president and CEO of PCMA.

PCMA represents pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies that administer prescription drug plans for people who have health insurance from commercial plan sponsors, self-insured plans, Medicare Part D, and a variety of government health plans. Major PBMs include ExpressScripts, Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, CVS Health, Humana and Prime Therapeutics.

Writing in an op-ed in The Hill last week, Merritt pointed to the promotion of generic drugs and more affordable brand options as key way to control higher drug costs, and two of the prime tools employed by PBMs. 

“The truth is PBMs want the same thing their clients and consumers want:  lower, not higher drug prices,” wrote Merritt. “That’s why PBMs promote generics over brands whenever possible.”

According to GPhA, almost 3.9 billion of the 4.4 billion prescriptions dispensed in the United States are for generics. Those generics make up 89% of prescriptions dispensed, but only 27% of total medicine spending, according to the association. 

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