Costs of Pharmaceuticals

The European Union is investigating efforts of Pharma to suppress generics, according to yesterday's New York Times.   The EU suggests that the cost to European consumers approaches $4 billion over the last seven years. Techniques that are under investigation include filing frivolous patents and paying off generic manufacturers to delay launches of competing drugs.   

The Times today had an extensive article on how an extensive government-funded study that showed that generic drugs should be used in initial treatment of hypertension had far less impact on the actual number of prescriptions written for more expensive, less-preferred antihypertensive medications.   Some of the more-expensive brand name medications went generic shortly after the trial, and pharmaceutical companies went all-out to convince practicing physicians to continue to prescribe their more expensive medications.   They also lobbied hard against any FDA communication suggesting that some of the brand name medications were associated with higher rates of congestive heart failure.

Clearly, changes in pharmacy benefits have encouraged the use of generic medications, which have saved insurers and consumers billions.  However, there are still substantial impediments to saving still more health care dollars by further diminishing prescriptions of expensive brand name medications not shown to be better than generic alternatives.