Generic Drug Prescriptions Vary Across Regions

The generic fill rate was lowest in N.J. in 2004, highest in Oregon, Massachusetts and New Mexico

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Generic drug use varies from state to state, and greater use of generic medicines could have saved $20 billion in 2004, according to a report released Tuesday by the pharmacy benefits management company Express Scripts, Inc.

Emily Cox, Ph.D., and colleagues examined generic drug use in six major drug therapy classes in 2004, among a random sample of about 3 million people.

Overall, use of generics varied across regions. The generic fill rate (GFR) ranged from a low of 41% in New Jersey to a high of 56% in Oregon, Massachusetts and New Mexico. Massachusetts had the highest GFR for three of the six therapy classes, and New Jersey had the lowest GFR for four therapy classes.

The researchers estimate that prescribing more generic medications in the six drug classes could have saved $20 billion in 2004 across the United States. Generic gastrointestinal drugs offered the greatest savings at more than $5 billion a year. Only 31% of such drugs were filled with generic medicines.

"The savings opportunity for employers, state governments, unions and members from achieving higher GFRs is unprecedented," the authors write. Reaching these generic savings targets calls for greater recognition that generic drugs save money and encouraging greater use of generic alternatives, according to the report.

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