Taking Generic Form of Drug Boosts Regimen Adherence

Cheaper alternatives help keep patients using medicines as directed, study finds

TUESDAY, Feb. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who take generic prescription drugs are more likely to adhere to their doctor's prescribed therapy plan than patients who take brand-name drugs, a new study finds.

The findings are another reason why "generic drugs should be prescribed for patients beginning chronic therapy, as long as there are no specific clinical reasons why a branded drug may be more appropriate," researcher Dr. William Shrank, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in a prepared statement.

The findings appear in the Feb. 13 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Shrank's group analyzed how well 6,755 patients enrolled in a three-tier pharmacy benefit structure stuck to their drug regimens. Under their benefit plan, the patients had to pay the highest co-payment for non-preferred brand-name drugs (third tier), smaller co-payments for preferred brand-name drugs (second tier), and smallest or no co-payment for generic drugs. The group received a total of 7,532 new prescriptions during the study period.

There were six classes of drugs included in the study: cholesterol-lowering statins; oral contraceptives; orally inhaled corticosteroids (asthma); and three antihypertensives (calcium-channel blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors).

Patients who took generic drugs showed a 12.6 percent increase in therapy adherence, compared to patients who took brand-name third-tier drugs, the study found. Patients who took second-tier drugs had an 8 percent increase in adherence compared to those who used third-tier drugs.

Other findings:

  • Patients who took a generic drug had a 62 percent better chance of achieving adequate adherence and those who took a brand-name second-tier drug had a 30 percent better chance than those who took third-tier drugs.
  • Patients who were initially prescribed third-tier brand-name drugs were 2.1 times more likely to switch to a drug in another tier than patients initially prescribed generic drugs.
  • Patients who switched from their initial prescription were 2.8 times more likely to switch to a less-expensive, lower-tier brand-name or generic than to a higher-tier drug.
  • Patients who initially received generic drugs switched at less than half the rate of those who received third-tier drugs.

"Physicians commonly prescribe chronic medications for important medical problems. Both physicians and patients should be aware of how the medication choice directly influences the patient's ability to follow the prescribed treatment," Shrank said.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about generic drugs.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Feb. 13, 2006
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