Thursday, July 06, 2006

Zoloft and Zocor Patents to Expire, Generic Versions Become Available

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association consists of forty locally operated, independent member companies. For over seventy years, BCBSA has prided itself on providing affordable health insurance without compromising the quality of health care. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans provide coverage for over ninety-two million people in all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Generic Versions of Zoloft and Zocor Will Save Consumers and Employers Money...

June 23, 2006

Generic versions of the blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor (simvastatin) and Zoloft (sertraline), a popular anti-depressant, create a unique opportunity for American consumers and employers to reap billions of dollars in savings, according to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Effective today, generic versions of Zocor will be available; will go off patent within the next week. “A switch to generic versions of Zocor and Zoloft represents a watershed event that will significantly improve affordability for consumers, employers and government-run healthcare programs,” said Allan Korn, M.D., BCBSA chief medical officer.
“By the end of 2006, nearly 57 percent of the pharmaceuticals dispensed across the 38 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans will be generic drugs, proof that our efforts to educate consumers about generics are making a difference. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans are committed to providing consumers the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions in areas like generics, which are as safe and effective as brand-name drugs and more affordable,” Korn added.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans are actively promoting the use of generics in their communities through educational and awareness campaigns, changes in benefit design, sampling programs, physician and member communications, academic detailing, co-pay waivers for generic switches, radio and television advertisements. As required by the Food and Drug Administration, generic versions of these drugs must have quality, strength, purity and stability equal to the brand-named drugs losing patent protection.

“It is estimated that the generic versions of Zocor (simvastatin) scheduled for release will lower the price by 80 percent over the next six-to-eight months,” said Joel Owerbach, Pharm D., chief pharmacy officer, Excellus Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

That means for consumers without prescription drug coverage, the retail cost of a 30-day supply of generic Zocor may fall to $25 or less. Blue Cross and Blue Shield HMO and PPO members nationally may expect to save, respectively, $204 to $240 annually on co-payments by switching, depending on their benefits. Employers would see significant savings as well. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans spend a combined 15 percent of pharmacy benefit dollars on drugs like Zocor and Zoloft. According to Rob Seidman, Pharm D., chief pharmacy officer, WellPoint, if physicians shifted their prescribing patterns to the new Zocor and Zoloft generics, pharmacy benefit costs could fall significantly. “A survey of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans found that switching to generic equivalents could result in overall pharmacy benefit savings of 5 percent or $2 billion a year.”

The government’s Medicare program would also benefit from the switch to generics. A January 2006 Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs study “found that the government’s Medicare program, Part D plans and 12 million beneficiaries who take statins could realize savings of $8.2 billion a year if they switched from brand-named statins to generics,” said Seidman.

The switch to generics will also help Medicare beneficiaries delay or avoid the program’s coverage gap or “doughnut hole” that begins after seniors have incurred $2,250 in drug costs. According to IMS, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry market intelligence firm, an estimated $18 billion to $20 billion of branded pharmaceutical drugs will lose patent protection in 2006.

The BCBSA Plans had over one-thousand members in 1929, three million members in 1939, and over eighty-eight million members by 2003. The ‘Blue Plans’ continue to grow in enrolment by focusing on its members, and providing top quality, affordable health care coverage. Compare Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance quotes with other top carriers in your state.


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