Contest between brand-name drugs and cheaper generics

Published on

CBS-TV Evening News (6:00 PM ET)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, anchor: Health-care costs are soaring again and that puts a spotlight on the long-running contest between brand-name drugs and cheaper generics. In California, Vince Gonzales reports some doctors and HMOs are taking sides.

VINCE GONZALES reporting: For this patient’s mild eye infection, a costly, brand-name drug is not what the doctor ordered.

Dr. DANIEL STONE (Cedars-Sinai Medical Group): I wrote your prescription for an eyedrop for your eye infection which is the generic for the drug Garamycin.

GONZALES: Like many physicians, Dr. Daniel Stone often prefers prescribing generic drugs which contain the same active ingredients. He feels they’re just as effective and cost significantly less.

Dr. STONE: For patients who have experience with generic drugs, most of them are enthusiastic about generic drugs because they realize it’s a–a way for them to save some money and still get good treatment.

GONZALES: To get more people to switch, four of California’s biggest HMO kicked off a new campaign. They’re giving out coupons, waiving a patient’s first co-payment as much as $10 for certain heavily prescribed drugs including medications used to treat common conditions such as arthritis, depression and high cholesterol.

The HMOs hope to counter aggressive marketing of expensive brand-name drugs that bombards consumers every day through TV and print ads.

Dr. ERIC BOOK (Blue Shield of California): Our indications show that for a one cr–1 percent increase in the use of generic drugs above the cer–of–above the current rate, then for Blue Shield members there’ll be a savings of approximately $6 million.

GONZALES: The HMOs claim the savings will be passed on to patients in the form of lower premiums, but health-care advocate Jamie Court believes consumers won’t see any extra cash.

Mr. JAMIE COURT (Health-Care Advocate): What patients may see is less out-of-pocket costs because they would have paid more for a brand-name than a generic.

GONZALES: Dr. Stone knows that generic drugs don’t work as well in some patients, but he hopes they will take advantage of the HMO incentives and give generics a try.

Dr. STONE: The fact that they’ll be able to access a month of medication without have to pay out of pocket for it I think will allow the–the generic drug a foot in the door if their symptoms are controlled.

GONZALES: California’s HMOs want cost controlled. They point out a patient taking three different drugs could save between $500 and $1,000 a year by switching to generics.

Vince Gonzales, CBS News, Los Angeles.

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