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Broker News | Vol. 7, No. 8 | April 23, 2012
Broker News | Vol. 7, No. 8 | April 23, 2012

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Offers Free Initial Copay for Expanded List of Generic Drugs

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield members who take brand-name medicines for pain, heartburn, gout, high blood pressure, overactive bladder and migraine headaches now have an added incentive to ask their doctor if a generic drug might be right for them: A free initial 30-day supply of a generic option to try at no cost, plus lower copays going forward if they continue with the generic. 

Excellus BCBS has long offered its members free trials of selected generic drugs. The health plan's Generic Trial Program had included 13 different generics in seven disease categories, accounting for about 41 percent of all prescriptions written for its members. Excellus BCBS now has expanded the program to 29 generic drugs covering 10 disease categories. A majority of the categories now have multiple generic options.

"Our program is an alternative to the free samples of heavily marketed drugs that pharmaceutical companies supply to doctors in hopes that patients become loyal users of the higher-cost brand," said Joel Owerbach, Pharm.D., Excellus BCBS vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

A 30-day supply of an average brand-name prescription drug retails for $208, as opposed to $18 for an average generic. "That's a dramatic price difference for people who don't have prescription drug coverage," said Owerbach. "Those who have prescription drug coverage typically are charged the lowest-level copay for generics, so a patient's ongoing out-of-pocket costs likely will be lower with a generic than with a brand-name drug."

The free Generic Trial Program is meant to encourage a physician to begin his or her patients' course of treatment with a generic option. Excellus BCBS has found that more than 90 percent of all patients who start on a generic medication will stay with it. In addition, Excellus BCBS encourages patients who pay higher-level copays for brand-name drugs to ask their physician if a lower-cost generic might be right for them.

"Generics are the gold standard when it comes to prescription medications, because they are widely used, time-tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Our expanded free Generic Trial Program gives physicians an even broader arsenal of affordable treatment options for their patients who have chronic conditions," said Owerbach.

Expensive brand-name drugs that now are targeted by Excellus BCBS for generic alternatives include Celebrex® for pain, Aciphex® for heartburn, Benicar HCT® for high blood pressure, Detrol LA® for overactive bladder, Uloric® for gout and Zomig® for migraine headaches.

Nearly all of Excellus BCBS' commercial benefit plans participate in the Generic Trial Program, which does not apply to Medicaid Managed Care, Family Health Plus or Child Health Plus benefit plans. Members may ask about their particular plan by calling the Pharmacy Help Desk at 1 (800) 724-5033.

Learn more about Excellus BCBS' Generic Trial Program, along with a library of information on savings opportunities with generics.


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