Consumers clued in to generic drugs, but most unaware of Government initiatives
Awareness and acceptance of generic medicines are growing as consumers become more cost-conscious in their drug purchases, new research indicates.
However, it could take years before the use of cheaper generic alternatives to branded drugs rises to the levels found in the UK – and even longer before prices drop to British levels, industry experts have warned.
Patients are twice as likely to be offered generic alternatives when filling their prescriptions as they were four years ago, the research commissioned by Teva Pharmaceuticals found. They were also more likely to have discussed substituting generics for their brand-name drug with their doctor or pharmacist.
About two out of three consumers said they had been offered a generic alternative when filling a prescription.
Not surprisingly, 85 per cent of people believed Irish drug prices were too high and 98 per cent supported measures to cut their cost. Yet only a third of those surveyed by Behaviour Attitudes were aware of Government initiatives to reduce medicine costs.
Speaking at the launch of the research, general manager Sandra Gannon warned that Minister for Health James Reilly’s plan to encourage greater use of generics could take years to implement.
She said lower generics prices in the UK were the result of many years of “focused effort” there. Not only was the UK a bigger market but the penetration of generic drugs was far greater – almost 80 per cent compared with under 10 per cent in the Republic. The result was lower prices.
Reilly recently agreed price-cutting deals with the industry that he says will save €400 million over the next three years, before the cost of new drugs is factored in. Legislation before the Dáil will result in further cost savings through the greater use of generics.
Gannon said the Government will be able to reduce its annual drugs bill but this will require a wider programme of reforms rather than relying solely on “blunt” drug-price cuts.