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    Retailers and PBMs Laud Generic/Biosimilar Savings

    Savings from generic and biosimilar drugs are making PBMs and pharmacies, as well as patients, happy.

    Two of the nation’s largest pharmacy retail chains, along with the largest PBM, Express Scripts, rely on generic drugs to control overall health-care costs.

    CVS, Walgreens, and Express Scripts are also putting their support behind biosimilar drugs, but to a lesser extent, since there are still only a handful of approved biosimilars on the market.

    “When patients have access to a generic medication at a lower cost, it helps increase access. Patients have realized savings on the cash price as well as on their insurance copays from recent generic launches of Crestor, Benicar and Benicar HCT, Seroquel XR, and Tamiflu,” Scott Goldberg, Senior Manager of Media Relations for Walgreens, told Drug Topics.

    StatisticThe launch of rosuvastatin, the generic version of Crestor, was one of the most important approvals last year, according to CVS Caremark.

    And, while there were fewer generic launches in 2016 than in 2015, CVS Caremark’s generic dispensing rate rose by 1.4 percentage points to 85%. Most payers recognize the value of generics, and many have taken a more aggressive approach in promoting their use, according to an article on CVS Caremark’s website.  

    “Our track record shows that encouraging [generic drug] use is containing spending growth,” CVS Caremark reported. Conversely, there was an 8.6% increase in brand drug inflation across the PBM.

    Likewise, 85.4% of prescriptions filled among commercially insured Americans in 2016 were for a generic, according to Express Script’s “2016 Drug Trend Report.”

    In addition, the price of generic drugs continues to fall. Generic prices dropped 8.7% for Express Scripts’ clients in 2016; between 2008 and 2016, generic deflation was a significant 73.7%, the report stated.

    Generic Drug Challenges

    Despite generic drugs’ contribution to lower overall health-care costs, pharmacy chains and PBMs still want faster drug approvals.

    “At the start of 2017, more than 4,000 generic drugs were pending approval at the FDA. In comparison to the European Union, the United States has much catching up to do: Europe approves drugs more quickly and has 20 biosimilars on the market compared to our four,” CVS Caremark said on its web site. “As the health-care landscape continues to evolve, increasing the flow of generics and biosimilars is an important step to unlock the cost-savings potential for patients, taxpayers and the health system as a whole.”

    “Pharmacists are well-positioned to partner with providers and health plans to ensure patients maximize their health-care savings potential. Improving the timeline for generic drug approvals would also bring savings to the market faster for customers,” Goldberg agreed.

    Up next: How biosimilars can lower costs

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