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    Generic Medications Often More Expensive Than Expected

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday examined how the prices of generic medications "can vary wildly and may not be nearly as cheap as expected." Patients with prescription drug coverage in most cases pay the lowest copayments for generic medications when they reach the market, but those without coverage are subject to different, and in some cases high, prices charged by pharmacies. According to the Journal, at a "time when policymakers are searching for ways to cut health care costs, generic drugs are often viewed as one of the most straightforward solutions," but generic versions of a "number of other notable drugs that came off patent recently" have "failed to deliver big savings in many cases." Jim Yocum -- executive vice president of DestinationRx, a pharmacy data and software company -- said, "We're not seeing that sharp a drop-off" in prices among generic medications that have reached the market in recent years, adding, "We're just not seeing it."

Zocor
For example, although the price that health insurers pay for simvastatin -- the generic version of the anticholesterol medication Zocor, which lost patent protection in June 2006 -- has "dropped dramatically," the "price that pharmacies charge patients who pay cash remains high in many locations, with wide variations by vendor." Walgreens.com had charged $129.99 for 30 tablets of the 20-milligram dose of simvastatin, compared with $149.99 for Zocor. In late February, after a call from a reporter, walgreens.com reduced the price of simvastatin to $89.99. A walgreens.com spokesperson said that the company previously had the price of simvastatin under review. CVS.com had charged $108.99 for the same dose of simvastatin, compared with $154.99 for Zocor. Last week, after a call from a reporter, CVS.com announced plans to reduce the price of simvastatin to $79.99 as part of an "ongoing price analysis." Drugstore.com had charged $125 for the same dose of simvastatin, compared with $135.99 for Zocor. On Friday, after a call from a reporter, drugstore.com reduced the price of simvastatin to $27.99, a move that the company attributed to part of a regular review. A Rite Aid spokesperson last week said that the company charges $131.99 for the same dose of simvastatin, compared with $178.99 for Zocor. On Monday, the spokesperson said that the prices were inaccurate but did not provide revised prices (Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal, 3/13).

"Reprinted with permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Publication Date: 2007-03-15 19:00

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