Use of generic drugs on the rise, data show

Almost two-thirds of prescriptions filled for Medicare beneficiaries are for generic, rather than brand-name, drugs, according to government data. That proportion is higher than in the under-65 age group and helps lower the projected costs of the Medicare drug benefit. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal program for the elderly and disabled, found that 61% of seniors’ prescriptions were for generic medications in the third quarter, the third consecutive quarter of growth in generic drug use. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores was also expected to announce that use of generic drugs rose to almost 53% of privately insured Americans, from 48% in 2005. Increased use of generics has been given as one reason why the growth in US health care spending has slowed in recent years. Generic alternatives have also allowed seniors to delay reaching the Medicare benefit’s coverage gap, also known as the “doughnut hole,” or avoid it altogether. The agency encourages the use of generic drugs, according to The Wall Street Journal report.