(BPT) - The new year invites us to recognize what’s really important. As many families gather for the first holiday season back together, the value of health takes precedence over the packages under the tree. And as we make our resolutions, health is the one to keep.
And prescription drugs keep Americans healthy and productive. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about six in 10 adults take at least one prescription drug, and a quarter take four or more.
These medicines are the critical first line of defense to treat chronic illness and stave off more intensive and expensive interventions.
The doctors ordering these prescriptions and the pharmacists filling them recognize that FDA-approved generics and biosimilars are just as safe and effective as their brand-name counterparts.
Just as important, generic and biosimilar prescription medicines are accessible. The annual U.S. Generic & Biosimilars Savings Report finds that generics represent more than 90% of all prescriptions. But these medicines — which are used in the treatment of asthma, anxiety, high blood pressure and much more — account for only 18% of all prescription drug spending.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, generics and biosimilars continued to demonstrate their value, saving patients and the U.S. health care system $338 billion in 2020 alone.
The reason tens of millions of Americans entrust their health to generics is simple. These medicines contain the same active ingredients at the same strength and purity as their brand-name counterparts, but come at a fraction of the cost. Likewise, biosimilars are lower-cost versions of costly biologic medicines and are approved by FDA as highly similar to and with no clinically meaningful differences from an existing FDA-approved reference product. The introduction of oncology biosimilar medicines has cut the growth rate of oncology spending roughly in half since 2019. This reduction in growth, along with continued use of generic cancer medicines, contributed to a total of $18 billion saved on oncology medicines in 2020.
American voters prioritize lowering prescription drug prices and other health care costs above all other issues, and generic utilization is one of the more effective mechanisms to control drug costs. Generics and biosimilars are particularly valuable to Medicare. Nationally, the Medicare program saved $109.6 billion in 2020 by using generics. Total generic drugs savings for Americans over age 65 came to $120 billion.
Nonetheless, many seniors are paying too much for their generics as a result of increasing copays, even when the generic price has declined. Recent analysis by Avalere found that nearly half of all Medicare patients paid the full cost of their generic because the plan-imposed copay was higher than the cost of the medicine.
At the holiday season and all year long, health is a gift, and with more than 92% of generic prescriptions having a final out-of-pocket cost below $20, it’s a gift Americans can afford.
You can download the 2021 U.S. Generic & Biosimilars Savings Report at accessiblemeds.org.