HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that Michigan's largest health insurers are making it more difficult for pharmaceutical companies to move their name brand medications. According to the latest Michigan Health Plan Analysis, insurers tout a higher than average generic utilization, maintain low generic copays and have been innovative in new programs to further promote generic usage.
"With pharmacy spending totaling 18 percent of American medical expenses, generic substitution has the opportunity to save millions for many stakeholders," states Rick Byrne, analyst for HealthLeaders-InterStudy and author of the report.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan launched its award-winning "Generics: The Unadvertised Brand" campaign to promote generic dispensing through couponing and other strategies in 2001. The company claims to have saved $500 million since then by promoting generics. Its most recent initiative, which other insurers are also undertaking, seeks to drive patients to less expensive drugs for heartburn and acid reflux disease. They could get an over-the- counter drug, Prilosec OTC, for just their generic copay, the first time the company has partially reimbursed for an over-the-counter medication.
Health Alliance Plan has also employed a number of strategies to get patients to use generic drugs. The company's generic utilization rate is 72 percent, well above the national average of 58 percent.
Generic promotion strategies in Michigan have also targeted providers. Blue Care Network (BCN), the HMO owned by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, paid 2,400 Michigan doctors $2 million earlier this year for BCN members who filled prescriptions for a generic cholesterol-lowering drug. In the program, doctors received $100 for each patient with a BCN pharmacy benefit who filled a prescription for a generic cholesterol-lowering drug. HealthPlus of Michigan has enacted a similar program, spending about $1.5 million a year paying 1,000 doctors for generic prescriptions and other services.
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