As the nation grapples with ways to lower healthcare costs, access to generics plays a large role in saving patients, and the health system, money at the pharmacy counter. In 2017 alone, generics generated $265 billion in savings, according to a report from the Association for Accessible Medicines.
Savings for Medicare and Medicaid alone totaled $82.7 billion and $40.6 billion, respectively.
In 2017, generics accounted for 9 of every 10 prescriptions filled in the United States, and 93% of these prescriptions were filled at $20 or less. While brand name drugs accounted for just 10% of prescriptions, they were responsible for 77% of prescription spending. Due to high costs, those prescribed brand name drugs were 2 to 3 times more likely to not pick up their prescription after calling it in.
Looking by drug class, the biggest savings were seen in mental health, which saved $42 billion from generic drugs, followed by $34 billion for cholesterol and $31 billion for hypertension. By patient condition, savings totaled $48 billion for mental illness, $47 billion for heart disease, and $17 billion for epilepsy.
Savings by state averaged $5.2 billion, ranging from $354 million in Alaska to $23.2 billion in California.
In recent years, the gradual introduction of biosimilars to the market has provided another outlet for prescription cost savings. In the 8 years since the passage of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), 12 biosimilars have been approved, most recently a second biosimilar to Amgen’s reference filgrastim (Neupogen), used to treat neutropenia.