The report examined the clinical potential for greater generic drug use in six major drug-therapy classes used to treat common conditions like stomach ulcers, inflammation, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It was based on a random sample of approximately three million individuals projectable to the U.S. commercially insured population.

The $24.7 billion savings potential reflects the introduction this year of new generic drugs in two of the most widely-used classes – the anti-cholesterol drug simvastatin and the anti-depressant drug sertraline. In 2005, both had sales of $3.1 and $2.6 billion, respectively. Thus, the biggest savings available this year are in the anti-cholesterol class at $10.3 billion. Generics, including lovastatin, pravastatin and ultimately simvastatin, are potent enough to fill 85 percent of all prescriptions for an anti-cholesterol drug, based on existing prescribing patterns.

On average, only 18.8 percent of anti-cholesterol prescriptions are currently filled with a generic. However, some health plans have already achieved generic utilisation in the anti-cholesterol class exceeding 75 percent, according to published reports.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to conserve precious health care dollars by increasing our use of less expensive generic drugs and still achieve the same clinical benefit,” said Dr. Ed Weisbart, Express Scripts chief medical officer. In 2004 and 2005, failure to take advantage of the full potential of generic drugs in the six classes resulted in missed savings opportunities of $20 and $21.3 billion, respectively.

The savings opportunity from increased use of generic drugs has never been greater. More than $50 billion worth of branded drugs will lose patent exclusivity over the next five years. This year alone, $14.3 billion in drug sales are expected to lose patent, with generic alternatives becoming available for at least 16 branded drugs.

MEDICA.de; Source: Express Scripts, Inc.