Consumers are increasingly opting for generics. Branded or prescription drugs are costlier, a possible factor behind the trend.
Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading research organization, has reported increased rate of prescription abandonment.
A prescription is defined as abandoned when a patient submits a retail prescription to a pharmacy but never actually picks it up.
Looking at U.S. commercial plan claims for 2008, Wolters Kluwer Health found that prescription abandonment increased by 34 percent nationally compared to 2006 --- jumping from an average of 5.15 percent in 2006 to 6.8 percent in 2008.
"Price sensitivity is clearly a factor as consumers decide to forego certain prescriptions altogether, including some for chronic conditions," said Mark Spiers, President & CEO, Wolters Kluwer Health, Pharma Solutions. "This disturbing trend may have serious health implications and seems poised to continue especially if the economy deteriorates further."
The Wolters Kluwer Health analysis, known as Pharma Insight, also shows that generic medications continue to make significant gains over brands by grabbing more than 60 percent of all U.S. prescriptions filled in 2008, and an even greater percentage of the subset of drugs that are taken orally. According to the data, there were 2.4 billion prescriptions filled for generic drugs and only 1.4 billion for brand-name medications -- an unprecedented spread of a billion prescriptions.
According to the data, U.S. prescriptions for generics and brands reached equilibrium in 2005 and then generics continued to build momentum each year thereafter increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 percent since 2004. Conversely, branded drugs slowed pace to a negative 6 percent CAGR for the same period.
"We're close to the point, certainly by the end of 2009, where two-out-of-every-three prescriptions filled will be generic," continued Spiers. "These trends are going to become even more pronounced moving forward as there are many blockbusters in major therapeutic areas like cholesterol reducers due to come off patent in the coming three years. The volume of available generics will increase, and there are very few new 'blockbuster' drugs in the pipeline to replace them."
According to Spiers, many factors contribute to the steady growth of generic prescriptions in America, among the most prevalent: patient education, awareness and changing attitudes. "Patients are becoming far more comfortable with the concept of using a generic in place of a brand. This, in part, is due to patient education programs and enthusiasm forged by marketing vehicles such as $4 generic drug programs," said Spiers.
The data also suggest that the economy is playing an enormous role in patient decision-making. As third-party insurers set higher co-pays for brands, patients are reacting by forcibly choosing generic alternatives. Spiers suggests that the economic downturn is going to further drive this demand and further spur prescription abandonment. "Increased unemployment and high numbers of newly uninsured are encouraging patients to look for ways to cut costs," added Spiers.