As more big-selling, brand-name meds fall off the patent cliff, lower-cost generics are destined to become more popular, yes? And a known side effect of this development is that more insurers are using this transformation to force doctors and patients to switch to generics. But to what extent?
A new survey of 10,842 patients by the non-profit advocacy group shows that up to 70 percent of prescriptions written by doctors are forcibly changed by health insurers. Complete results have not yet been released, but Global Healthy Living Foundation says that, since sometimes generics are not identical to brand-name meds, the findings suggest some patients with chronic conditions are being placed at risk because they relapse after being switched to a cheaper drug.
"This disturbing finding is not a simple case of switching a brand-name drug for a generic one, a common and generally accepted practice used for many illnesses, and one GHLF supports," GHLF executive director Louis Tharp tells us. "If the drugs are identical, doctors will probably not have an objection, according to our survey, but national medical groups say some drugs are not identical and switching can cause adverse reactions and poor recovery rates."
The non-profit is also conducting another survey to examine so-called 'fail first' practices, in which insurers may require a patient to fail on a cheaper med before being allowed to obtain the original drug presscribed them. A preliminary finding, Tharp says, indicates some insurers are making this demand for drugs not approved by the FDA.
GHLF, he adds, is working with various state legislatures, including New York and California, in hopes of passing laws to prevent forcible generic switching. As PharmaTimes notes, a separate survey by the South Carolina Medical Association found that 97 percent of the docs say they were forced to change a prescription due to restrictions imposed by an insurer (see the survey results here).