Generic medicines offer affordable alternatives to pricier name-brand drugs, reducing the financial burden on both senior citizens and the government health programs that serve them. Prescription drugs make up 11 percent of national health care spending, but are one of the largest and fastest growing health care expenditures. Generic drugs, which on average cost 63 percent less than their brand-name counterparts, are a big part of the solution to health care costs that are spiraling out of control. As a result, under Senator Kohl's direction, the Aging Committee has held two hearings looking into ways to increase access to and utilization of affordable generic drugs. He also introduced two bills in the 110th Congress to help speed the process of getting generic drugs into the marketplace. The first, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, would prohibit brand name pharmaceutical companies from paying generic drug companies to keep low priced generics off the market, a questionable practice that leaves seniors with unnecessarily high drug costs. The second, the Citizen Petition Fairness and Accuracy Act, will further speed the introduction of cost-saving generic drugs by preventing abuses of the Food and Drug Administration citizen petition process.
Generic drug applications to the FDA have more than doubled over the last four years. The FDA received 793 applications for generic drug approval last year, up from 307 applications in 2002. Through Senator Kohl's position as Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, he was able to secure a $5 million increase in FY 2007 for FDA's Office of Generic Drugs to reduce the backlog of current generic drug applications.