Release date 02/08/2011
YONKERS, NY — A new report in the March issue of Consumer Reports finds that many common generic drugs beat brand names when it comes to safety, efficacy, and cost. Yet many consumers aren’t taking advantage of the discount drug programs offering these drugs at prices as low as $4 a month.
“Retailers like Kmart, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart have been steadily expanding their discount programs, offering $4 a month prescriptions for drugs that our evidence based program deems ‘best buys,’ said Lisa Gill, editor, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs (BBD). “We suspect that consumers aren’t taking full advantage of these programs because of the constant din of drug advertising which is steering consumers toward overpriced brand name drugs.”
Consumer Reports BBD identifies “best buys” based on a review of the medical evidence in partnership with the Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP), based at Oregon Health & Science University. For each class of drugs to treat a given condition, Consumer Reports BBD uses an analysis of hundreds of studies—and sometimes thousands—by DERP to derive its “best buy” designations. The reports, which cover 25 classes of drugs for more than 35 conditions, are available for free at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org/BestBuyDrugs.
The Best Deal Around: $4 Generics
Drugmakers shell out billions of dollars each year to target consumers with their ads. In 2009, they spent $4.3 billion to reach consumers and $6.6 billion on promotions aimed at doctors, according to IMS Health, which tracks drug sales and marketing. Drug ads aimed at convincing consumers to ask for a drug by name are working: In a recent poll by Consumer Reports Health, one in five people said they’d asked for a drug they’d seen on TV and most (59 percent) of them said their doctor agreed to write the prescription.
The Best Buy Drugs report explains that generic drug makers must prove that their product contains the identical active ingredients as their brand name counterpart and that the drug is “bioequivalent,” meaning that as much active ingredient enters and leaves the bloodstream at the same speed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates generics just as it does brand-name drugs and monitors them once they’re on the market. To date, the FDA has found no difference in the rate of adverse reactions between generic and brand-name drugs.
“Generics look different from brands because of trademark issues but they’re equivalent in efficacy and consumers can save up to 80 percent off the retail price,” said John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director, Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.
Some examples of band-name drugs versus low cost generics:
Tips for purchasing $4 generics: