The rising cost of preventative health care is a universal concern, and we consider any information that helps ease these costs to be information worth sharing. Health Affairs published an article detailing research conducted by CVS Caremark, Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital looking at the cost of treating chronic diseases.
The researchers found that widespread availability and adoption of generic medications, which are as effective but lower in cost than brand name drugs, has significantly decreased the cost of both treating and preventing chronic disease in the U.S.
Significantly, previous studies did not take into account the wide availability of generics when calculating the cost of preventative care through medication and as a result these findings are able to show that the savings is much greater than earlier anticipated or assumed.
Since more than 70 percent of U.S. health care costs go toward treating patients with chronic diseases the research shows there are significant savings that could be seen through increased use of generic medications of all kinds. That's particularly true when looking at cardiovascular disease, which impacts about 80 million Americans and can be treated effectively with the right medications.
For example, a study in 2008 estimated that it cost nearly $50,000 per Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) to control glucose in cardio-vascular patients, while the new study, now accounting for the use of generics, estimates the cost at just over $1,000 per QALY. With approximately 80 million Americans suffering from some form of cardiovascular disease, the savings just from using generic medications are potentially staggering.
Similarly, the study found the cost for cholesterol-lowering medications is approximately $17,000 per QALY using generic medications vs. $83,000 in the 2008 study using branded medications.
The article also outlines the research team's recommendations for policy makers who continue to guide the health care discussion. Those recommendations include encouraging the use of generics in the Accountable Care Organizations being established across the country, promoting incentives for use of generic medications, limiting the use of "Dispense as Written" prescriptions and encouraging wider use of more cost-effective alternatives, and educating physicians and patients on the quality of generic medications to offset long-standing biases about the effectiveness of generics vs. brand medications.