Generic Version of Flomax® Will Save Upstate New Yorkers Millions

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Story Updated: Jul 28, 2010

Upstate New Yorkers who take Flomax®, the popular brand-name drug for the treatment of prostate enlargement, will have a significant opportunity for savings by switching to the drug’s generic equivalent when the Flomax patent expires in early 2010, according to a new report released by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Nearly 40,000 men in upstate New York use Flomax at an annual expense of $53 million. The retail price for Flomax is about $140 for a 30-day supply. For individuals with prescription drug coverage, brand-name Flomax has one of the higher-level copays. The initial price for the generic will be slightly lower, and within six months the price is expected to drop to about $75 for a 30-day supply. For those with drug coverage, the generic will have the lowest level copay.

“Consumers will benefit from a move to a generic because they’ll have lower out-of-pocket costs,” said Dr. Joel Owerbach, vice president and chief pharmacy officer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “The savings potential is significant, and consumers can be confident that the generic is a safe and effective alternative because it has the same active ingredients and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Flomax is one of 28 popular brand-name drugs scheduled to become available in a generic form over the next 24 months, according to a new fact sheet issued by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “The Facts About Opportunities for Generic Savings in 2010 and 2011” notes that nearly 470,000 upstate New Yorkers spend nearly $689 million a year on these particular drugs to treat common medical conditions. The generic versions will provide an opportunity to reduce overall health care spending in upstate New York by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The increased availability of generic drugs will save consumers money at the pharmacy through lower copays and out-of-pocket costs and lower benefit expenses for employer-sponsored and government health plans. It also may help to improve patient compliance,” said Owerbach. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Most drug manufacturers are granted an exclusive patent to produce the brand-name drug for a fixed period of time. “Once the patent expires, multiple companies can produce a generic version, resulting in lower costs for consumers,” said Owerbach. “On average, the cost of a generic drug could be 50 percent, 75 percent, and even 90 percent less than the brand-name version.”

Other drugs whose patents are scheduled to expire in 2010 and 2011 include Hyzaar® and Cozaar®, Effexor XR®, Aricept®, Yaz®, Tricor® and Lipitor®. Here are some important dates to remember:
  • The generic equivalents of two brand-name drugs to treat high blood pressure, Hyzaar and Cozaar, are expected to become available in April 2010. These are the first brand-name drugs in their therapeutic category (angiotensin inhibitors) to come off patent.
  • The patent for brand-name drug Effexor XR is expected to expire in July 2010. Effexor XR is used for the treatment of depression.
  • The highly advertised brand-name contraceptive Yaz is expected to become available as a generic in July 2010. More than 270,000 prescriptions were filled for Yaz in 2009 in upstate New York, at a cost of $29 million.
  • Aricept, the brand-name drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, is expected to become available as a generic in November 2010. Aricept is the first brand-name drug in its therapeutic class to become available generically.
  • The generic equivalents of two very popular brand-name drugs to treat high cholesterol and triglycerides, Lipitor and Tricor, will become available in 2011. More than $262 million were spent on these two drugs alone in 2009.

Since October 2005, measurable increases in the use of generic drugs as alternatives to higher-priced brand-name drugs have resulted in savings of nearly $1 billion for upstate New Yorkers, according to analyses by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has a number of educational materials and resources available on its Web site, including a consumer reference guide that lists available generic drug options for a variety of common conditions. The reference guide is available at: go.excellusbcbs.com/generics under “Tools and Resources.”’

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to 1.7 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools in our Step Up program. To learn more, visit www.excellusbcbs.com or see our Docs On Call Experts page.

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The American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine was formed in 1995 to establish and measure the level of knowledge, attitudes and skills required for certification of physicians practicing hospice and palliative medicine. Eligibility requirements for certification are significant. In order to be eligible to sit for the certifying examination, applicants must have received prior major specialty certification, practiced at least two years following residency, worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team for at least two years and have directly participated in the active care of at least fifty terminally ill patients in the preceding three years. Alternatively, applicants must have completed specialty fellowship training in palliative medicine. The fellowship training program must be at least one year in length and must meet the established voluntary standards for such a program.

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Information on the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine may be obtained from the website at www.ABHPM.org or by call (301) 439-8001.

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