The American College of Physicians (ACP) says that prescribing generic medications whenever possible can improve adherence to therapy, improve outcomes, and reduce costs for patients and the health care system. ACP’s best practice advice paper is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Generic medications represent an opportunity for reducing the high costs associated with prescription drugs. ACP reviewed available evidence to determine how often brand name drugs are used when generic versions are available, how the use of generics influences adherence, whether brand names and generics have similar clinical effects, the barriers to increasing the use of generics, and strategies that can be used to promote greater use of generics.
The evidence shows that generics are significantly underused despite the fact that their use could motivate better long-term adherence, as prescriptions for expensive branded drugs are twice as likely to go unfilled. Some of the underuse of generic medications is likely the result of patient and physician perceptions about the safety and a perceived lack of efficacy of the lower cost options, but the evidence shows that generic drugs are as effective as their branded counterparts regarding clinical outcomes.
Differences in the physical appearance of generics and their brand name counterparts might also cause confusion among patient. The authors suggest programs to educate physicians and patients about the benefits of generics.