Generic drugs play a major role in the health care system, supporting widespread medication access at an affordable cost. In fact, roughly 90% of prescriptions dispensed in the United States last year were generic drugs. This is great news, but can more be done?
Expanding the Types of Generic Medications
The vast majority of generics on the market now are for simple chemical molecules that are taken orally. Patients and providers have a high degree of confidence that these generics will have the same result as their comparable name brand products. This has led to broad use and substantial cost savings – both for individual patients and the health care system overall.
Now, patient advocates have set their sights on encouraging the development of and access to generic alternatives of more complicated drugs. Generic alternatives to drugs that are inhaled or injected, for example, have the potential for even greater cost savings.
But expanding the number of lower priced drugs is about more than just spending less. Patients are more likely to skip doses or abandon their medication at the pharmacy counter if they aren’t able to pay for it. And low medication adherence is directly tied to worse health outcomes.
The Generics Access Project
Increasing the availability of more complicated generics is a tenet of the Generics Access Project. The work of the growing coalition of patient advocacy organizations is guided by three pillars.
- Accessibility. The coalition works to ensure that generics are broadly available to patients and that applications for generic medications are reviewed in a timely manner by federal officials. Increasing the number of generics available for complicated drugs can improve medication affordability for patients across many disease states.
- Advocacy. When making decisions, federal regulators, specifically those within the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs, should consider not only safety and efficacy data, but also patients’ lived experiences. The coalition aims to elevate patients’ voices by establishing a formal process for consistently communicating with the FDA.
- Awareness. A broad range of stakeholders, from federal officials and policymakers to payers and clinicians, would be well served by greater awareness about generics’ benefits – and the potential to expand them. Coalition members work to highlight the importance of generic competition and the need for efficient approval of generic medicines.
Existing generics play an important role in patients’ ability to access affordable treatments. With the support of the Generics Access Project and more complex generic medications, that benefit could be even greater in the coming years.