By: Rebecca Herson
The “patent cliff” is here, with patents on blockbuster drugs such as Singulair, Plavix, Seroquel and Actos expiring, and it is critical that pharmaceutical companies listen to what patients are saying about generic alternatives. Preconceptions and opinions about generic medications abound, but do patients have their facts straight?
Analyzing thousands of patient discussions on health forums that mention generic drugs, Treato found a common theme emerging in online discussions: many patients believe that every branded drug has a low cost generic version. This, of course, is not the case as drugs under patent protection retain exclusivity until the patent expires and a generic form is approved by the FDA.
However, in a recent online discussion about Singulair, one patient discussed the availability of the generic version of this medication in India. Since the generic version of Singulair was only just approved earlier this month and had not yet reached the market, this patient clearly held a misconception. A similar mistaken patient post advised others about a low-cost generic version of Plavix long before its patent was due to expire.
For example, in a discussion about generic Lipitor, patients searched for less expensive generic alternatives in an attempt to save money on prescriptions. In many of these discussions, patients shared their personal experiences in which they asked their physician for a generic cholesterol reducing drug as a substitute for Lipitor. In return, patients describe getting a prescription for a medication that is said to be “very similar” to Lipitor.
Many of these patients assumed the medication they received was a “generic Lipitor” – which of course was not the case. What they actually received from their pharmacist was a generic version of one of a few popular cholesterol-reducing statins such as Zocor, Lipostat, or Mevacor.
Patients making a specific prescription requests to their physician is increasingly popular, with the combined forces of DTC advertising and easy access to information via the Internet influencing drug choices. Since FDA-approved generic drugs must have the same active ingredient(s), the same labeled strength and the same dosage as the original brand name medication, then these are clearly not the generic version of the same drug.
So, even though patients are requesting something they believe will be most effective, they are agreeing to a different medication, often due to cost considerations. They think they are receiving the generic form of the same drug, but in actuality they are being prescribed something other than what they requested. The patient confusion about generic vs. brand name medications comes through loud and clear from their voices in social media.