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Study: $4 generic programs could help save society close to $6 billion

PITTSBURGH — Patients that opt to fill their prescriptions through a $4 generic program could help garner societal savings of nearly $6 billion, a new study found.

Conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and published in the March 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study examined a nationally representative sample of nearly 31,000 people in the "2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey" and identified patients who could have saved money had they filled their medications through a discount generic drug program.

After comparing those who used generic medications or their brand-name counterparts for such drugs as lovastatin or prescription-strength ibuprofen, GSPH researchers found that less than 6% used the $4 generic medication programs in 2007 — although average prescription drug coverage plans asked patients to pay about $10 per 30-day supply for generic drugs and about $25 per 30-day supply for brand-name medications — and noted that if all eligible patients had used the discount programs in 2007, the societal savings would have been $5.8 billion.

"Although just half of the potential users of the $4 programs would have saved more than $22 a year in out-of-pocket expenses, the societal savings are great. This suggests the majority of savings comes from a small proportion of individuals," said the study's lead author, Yuting Zhang, assistant professor of health policy and management at GSPH.

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