As I see it: Branded vs. non-bioequivalent generic drugs

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Permit me to share some personal information—my eldest son has epilepsy. The good news is that his condition is under control due to the wonders of modern medicine. The bad news is that many in Congress want insurance companies and pharmacists to have the right to switch patients from a brand name medicine to a non-bioequivalent generic without either physician or patient knowledge or consent.

I don't want my son to have a seizure just so that his insurance company can save money. Because, if and when he ends up in the hospital, he's going to become very expensive very fast. But, to Big Insurance, that's a risk they're willing to take. It looks quite different from the patient side.

It also worries Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League: “We believe that if a patient is switched from one drug to another, that it should not be legal unless the patient and the doctor have been informed and are on board with the switch.”

I am a big believer in FDA-approved generic drugs. They are safe and effective and represent an enormous opportunity for healthcare savings. I applaud insurance company programs that seek to educate consumers about them. However, I am a big opponent of forced switching.

The repercussions of choosing short-term thinking over long-term results, of short-term cost-based choices over patient-based care, of “me-too” medicines over the right medicine for the right patient at the right time—are pernicious to both the public purse as well as the public health.

Peter Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a former FDA associate commissioner and partner/director, global healthcare, Porter Novelli
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