Joint Press

Report Recommends Ways to Increase Affordable Drugs Within Medicare Rx Program



WASHINGTON, DC
–  The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging unveiled a new bipartisan report today that focuses on ways to increase the use of generic drugs within the Medicare Part D program. 

In addition to the report, the committee is calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine what’s behind recent price increases for certain generic drugs, like heart medication digoxin which has been on the market for years.  The issue of generic drug price spikes has recently attracted attention from the Justice Department and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. 

Specifically, today’s report outlines a series of policy recommendations that include:

  • Providing incentives to prescription drug plan sponsors who increase generics use 
  • Finding innovative ways to expand generic drug usage among low-income subsidy beneficiaries 
  • Increasing education of beneficiaries and health professionals on the safety, effectiveness and cost benefits of generic medications 
  • Improving investigations of questionable pharmacy billing practices that thwart efforts to incentivize generics 

“We need to do everything we can to boost drug saving for beneficiaries and taxpayers,” said committee Chairman Bill Nelson (D-Florida). 

“Although the use of generic drugs has increased over time, more can be done to encourage appropriate use of generics in order to keep rising drug costs in check,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the panel’s ranking member.  “For example, greater attention should be given to educating Medicare beneficiaries and health care professionals about the efficacy of generic drugs, and encouraging them to select generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs, when appropriate.”

On average, the retail price of a generic drug is 75 percent lower than the retail price of a brand-name drug.  A 2010 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimated the use of generic drugs in the Part D program saved beneficiaries and taxpayers approximately $33 billion in one year alone. 

The committee’s findings were part of a comprehensive two-year review that analyzed drug plan formularies, pharmacy billing, physician prescribing practices and plan sponsor programs to incentivize generics use. 

The report can be found at http://www.aging.senate.gov/download/generic-drugs-report.