Generic drug use saves money in Part D program, studies find

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Medicare beneficiaries who use generic medications in the new prescription drug plan can significantly cut costs, according to separate studies by the Consumers Union, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

Medicare could save about $8 billion annually beginning in 2007 if all beneficiaries taking cholesterol-lowering statins switched from brand names medications to lower-cost generic drugs, the Consumers Union study found.

It also reported that Medicare beneficiaries taking drugs for five common treatment areas in six states could save between $2,300 and $5,000 annually if they switched from name brand drugs to generic. Those treatment areas are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, post-heart attack care, arthritis pain and depression.

Beneficiaries enrolled in mid-priced drug plans could reduce their drug costs by as much as 59% by switching from brand name drugs to generics, the CMS study found. Beneficiaries in the lowest-priced plans could cut drug costs by as much as 83% by switching to generics.