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Savings take center stage for generics makers

The money saved by using generic drugs — and their impact on patient accessibility — is limited only by how much the health system can utilize them. That’s according to the latest numbers from IQVIA and the Association for Affordable Medicines.

In 2016, the most recent year for which figures are yet available, generics accounted for 89% of all U.S. prescriptions dispensed, but only 26% of the nation’s pharmaceutical bill, according to research giant IQVIA and AAM report. The organizations note that generics have saved the health system roughly $1.67 trillion in the last decade.

What’s more, the federal health system could wring billions more in savings out of generics if Medicare and Medicaid adopted payment policies that fully encouraged their use. AAM and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores note that a 1% increase in use of generics can save as much as $558 million. The savings would be $6.56 billion annually if Medicare and Medicaid were able to match Hawaii’s 82.7% generic utilization rate.

Beyond healthcare systems savings, generics offer an important value proposition to patients, 21% of whom have skipped filling a prescription for themselves or a family member in the last year due to cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. AAM research has found that the abandonment rate for branded drugs is 266% higher than it is for generics — 90% of which have a sub-$20 copay, compared with 39% of branded drugs that do.

Because of the impact generics can have on patient health, generic manufacturers and service providers have made cost savings and improved adherence rates for healthier patients central to their mission and drug development efforts.

At FamilyWize, which negotiates discounts on prescription medications through the use of its free card and mobile app, chief pharmacy officer Ken Majkowski and president and CEO Joseph Sanginiti said they are using new partnerships and initiatives to focus on transparency and improving prescription affordability.

As a result, “prescriptions that patients may not have been able to afford are now more affordable,” Majkowski and Sanginiti said. “First-fill and subsequent fills are now more likely to occur. The end result: adherence.”

With high costs focused largely on specialty products, Jim Luce, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Bridgewater, N.J.-based Amneal Pharmaceuticals, said the company has “enhanced our focus on providing more and more complex, specialty, high-value pharmaceuticals products to the U.S. market. To date, we’ve had much success with these products and will continue on that pathway.”

Luce said the goal is to offer generic options for treatments that previously were not available or had limited availability. The company has plans to launch more than 100 products in 2018, many of which Luce noted were the first generic available or part of a small group of available generics.

“Our industry-benchmark R&D team is able to successfully file high-barrier-to-entry formulations and dosage forms,” Luce said. “This enables Amneal to bring an ever-increasing portfolio of life-changing medicine to the public at more affordable price points.”

Maple Grove, Minn.-based Upsher-Smith — which in 2017 was acquired by Japan’s Sawai Pharmaceutical — also is focused on building up its generic product portfolio and boosting lower-cost treatment options.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of our pharmacy partners by significantly increasing our pipeline of products to include new dosage forms, as well as more traditional and specialty products,” president and CEO Rusty Field said. “As always, we will continue to support programs and initiatives that enhance the important role played by pharmacists in advancing patient care and improving health outcomes.”
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