When patients demand a brand-name drug, many doctors likely to give in

Consumer Reports News: January 14, 2013 01:23 PM

If you ask your doctor for a brand-name drug, there's a good chance he or she will comply, even if there's a cheaper, equally effective generic drug available. That's especially true if your doctor is older, works in a small practice, or, big surprise, frequently has visits from drug representatives.

The new survey, published last week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that two-thirds of doctors said that they never or rarely prescribed a brand-name drug instead of an equivalent generic simply because of a patient request. But doctors who had visits from industry reps were more likely to do so, particularly if they came bearing goodies, like free food or drug samples.

In addition, 43 percent of physicians in practice for 30 years or longer were likely to give in to patients' requests for brand-name drugs, compared with 31 percent of those in practice for 10 years or less. Pediatricians, anesthesiologists, cardiologists and general surgeons were less likely to write such prescriptions for their patients' compared to internal medicine doctors.

At the same time, our own recent nationally representative survey found that the cost of medication and medical bills is the #1 financial problem Americans face. And many people say they are reluctant to discuss medical costs with their doctors. Using an expensive brand-name drug when a low-cost generic is available only adds to the problem. Generic drugs can provide a huge savings, sometimes priced as much as 95 percent less than brand-name medication.

Bottom line: When your doctor prescribes a drug, ask if there is a generic version that would be just as safe and effective but less expensive. If one isn't available, as is the case with many newer brand-name drugs, ask if a generic version of an older drug in the same class would work as well. And if you're concerned about the safety or effectiveness of generic drugs, see our advice and discuss it with your doctor.

Physician Acquiescence to Patient Demands for Brand-Name Drugs: Results of a National Survey of Physicians [JAMA Internal Medicine]

Sluggish economy forces Americans to cut corners to pay for medications

Related topics:
New generic drugs can save you money
5 ways to save on your medications, 3 traps to avoid
Where high drug costs hide

Ginger Skinner

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