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Many drugs about to plunge in price

When brand-name drugs go 'off patent,' other companies can make them in generic form. That's going to happen soon with some of the most popular medications.

By Karen Datko Jul 28, 2011 6:11PM

The patents for six of the 10 top-selling medications are going to expire before the end of 2012, meaning a huge price drop for millions of people who will be able to get their prescription drugs in generic form.


The list of drugs going "off patent" includes some whose names have been embedded in your brain by ad campaigns, even if you've never taken them. (Sorry, guys. It doesn't include the little blue pill.)


Never before have so many drugs become so cheap in so short a time. The savings for health insurers, including government programs, and patients will be immense.The Associated Press said:

Average co-payments last year were $6 for generics, compared with $24 for brand-name drugs given preferred status by an insurer and $35 for non-preferred brands, according to IMS Health.

It adds up. AP also says:

According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, generics saved the U.S. health care system more than $824 billion from 2000 through 2009, and now save about $1 billion every three days.

For many people, there's an added benefit. It's not uncommon among those who can't afford the price of prescription drugs to skip doses. (I've been there, and I don't recommend it.) Brad Tuttle observed at Time that "the price drops will mean that they'll finally start taking the meds -- because at long last they'll be able to afford them."

How much can you save? (This calculator may help.) For example, the cost of taking Lipitor could drop from about $150 to $10 a month for the generic version. Brand-name Protonix cost $170 a month and is now available in generic form for $16. Post continues after video.

Prescription drugs going off patent in the coming months include:

  • Lipitor (cholesterol).
  • Plavix (blood thinner).
  • Actos (diabetes).
  • Lexapro (depression).
  • Zyprexa (anti-psychotic).
  • Singulair (asthma).
  • Diovan (blood pressure).
  • Enbrel (rheumatoid arthritis).

This extensive list (.pdf file) of drugs going off patent could also be helpful.


If your drug is not on the list, you can ask your physician about a lower-cost alternative. Older drugs that are similar to the one you take may already be available in generic form.


Or you can wait. The AP says: "The flood of generics will continue for the next decade or so, as about 120 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity, according to prescription benefits manager Medco Health Solutions Inc."


Do generic drugs work as well as the expensive ones? Yes, generally speaking. However, the Los Angeles Times says that "despite the reassurances from the FDA, studies have found that some generics don't act in exactly the same way as the brand-name drugs, which can be a problem for drugs that operate on a thin margin for error."


Again, talk to your doctor before you switch. Even if your health insurance policy will only cover the generic version, your doctor can try to override that if the more expensive drug really does perform better.


More on MSN Money:

Jul 28, 2011 7:09PM
I have been ordering my more expensive meds from Canada for years. Yep, I know it is illegal. But my purse tells me to do what costs me the least.
Jul 29, 2011 10:53AM
Here's an idea to lower your drug costs . . . eat whole food, not processed; get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day (walking, running, dancing), volunteer to get your mind off yourself and your woes, and lay off the cigarettes, liquor, soda.  Would eliminate the need for type 2 diabetes and cholesterol lowering drugs for a lot of people for starters.  I am not talking about adults/kids with diseases that cannot be managed without drugs, I'm talking about people who want a pill to do what they should be doing for themselves.
Jul 29, 2011 12:03PM
The drug companies need to recoup research and development costs?  I think not.  The drug companies need to pay for their extensive advertising on prime time TV, magazines and samples to physicians.  Eliminate the cost of advertising for a drug that a patient NEEDS and subsequently lower the cost to the consumer.  Medication is not a choice and should not be treated as such.  I'm certain that drug companies can turn a nice profit and cover development costs at a much lower price to the consumer.
Jul 29, 2011 11:36AM
When living is Thailand I buy my medications because they are so cheap.  As one doctor told me, are the Thai people dying all around you, NO, then the medications must be OK.  I have compared by only using their medications and have been retested for my thyroid and nothing has changed in all the tests, the only thing that has changed is what I pay for my Synthroid or generic.  I can put an equivalent cent amount to what I pay, it is incredible.  No wonder the US is in such a mess, our greedy government officials getting kickbacks (great word as the pocket money in the back pocket) make us all hurt while they dictate their own free medical, wake up America, third world countries are better off than you because your government officials are also supporting these countries that are supposed to be soooooooo poor are paying your government officials and they are getting richer.  Ask people who travel to places like China, Thailand, Mexico, Canada and wherever and you will know.
Jul 29, 2011 10:01AM

After 35 years as an MD, I am amazed at some of the comments I see. Yes, R and D is very expensive and some recapture is necessary. Unfortunately prices are often unreasonably high and many of the "new" drugs are merely "me-too" drugs (minor variations of existing drugs with no new characteristics.... and almost always at same price!) or minor molecular changes, different delivery or dosing...  at the old price, or higher.

Generic pricing is often disappointing as well. Often the generic is produced by the same company, same factory, same pill with different code. In any event the price often remains HIGH to the consumer paying cash.... your insurance company gets a break, but you as an individual do not. Eventually, if there are enough producers of a generic AND it is a big seller, prices will come down but rarely to the $6 mentioned here. Sorry, but that's the truth.

Jul 29, 2011 11:04AM
I go to Mexico to get my Prescription drugs...there more then half's the same thing....we are getting ripped off
Jul 28, 2011 8:34PM
 I suggest  be careful if you switch to the Generic and keep a watch on it in your system.  Some are as good and some are not.
Jul 29, 2011 10:48AM

Fed Up American 5614

"This is just another prime example of the GREED in Corporate America. Something that can be made, put on the market and sold for $16.00 verses charging $170.00 just because its copyrighted. This shows what comes first. Money over the well being of another fellow American."
The only reason it can now be made for $16 is because the patent is up and other companies can produce it. The R&D that goes into ONE drug is approximtely 1 billion dollars. If you have ever used any drug to help with pain, runny nose, ANY ailment you have felt you have benefited from this. The companies need to recover lost cost from the drugs that don't make it to market. Please stop complaining about everything you can think of and realize that there is a cost to doing business in every industry. If you don't like it, then don't use any medications until they come off patent and take a risk with the generic form (not always as safe or helpful).
Jul 29, 2011 10:56AM
It's about time we get a break on some of this expensive medicine. It should not have been so expensive to begin with.
Jul 28, 2011 7:37PM
Right. And  the Easter Bunny lives next door to me.  Do you really believe that the lower price will actually trickle down to the comsumer?  I seriously doubt it.  Just like the airlines, they'll raise their prizes to cover the difference.  American companies are too corrupt.
This is GREAT news! I'm a pharmacy technician for a large national chain, so I see this a lot: an elderly patient will be on Lipitor, and their co-pay will be in the hundreds, "What! Didn't my insurance cover that?!" "Well yes, it did... without insurance, your cost would be (several hundred dollars more)." It's ridiculous how much these brand-name drugs cost. We're told it's due to R & D costs, but still! Actos is also one that is VERY pricey. Most patients will be willing to switch over, but some cannot take the generic, due to it possibly having a different filler used (wheat starch, etc., or something else they may be allergic to) or dyes added (again, allergies). I know that a generic just needs to be "therapeutically equivalent," but I think that if  the generic manufacturers are truly going to say it is like "the same thing," it should BE the same, as in same fillers, dyes, etc. That would help a lot in patients accepting the generic (as now that there will be a generic, the insurance may no longer cover the brand). Also, I have to wonder if the differences in non-active ingredients could account for the slight differences in effectiveness that may be found with generics (as stated in this article).
Jul 29, 2011 11:56AM
The reason I can travel to such places as China, Thailand, Mexico and Canada is because I do save on any medications I can buy there and they are the same medications that you have to pay so much for and the reason is in your congressman (woman's) bank accounts.  Wake up and help yourself so that people don't have to go to third world countries that are paying these very same congressmen and women (who by the way write their own medical insurances and care) not like you have that is for sure.  Before mouthing off about the pharmacetical companies, remember who pays them and who is representing (not representing) you the consumer and taxpayer. 
Jul 28, 2011 7:28PM
What about the folks who do not have insurance coverage? Think they will be paying only a 6 dollar copay for their meds? Or will they have to pay the full price?
We need Medicare for all in this country period



That WILL BE full price. It will be generic which means that the drug company loses its monopoly on that drug and any drug company can make it. The price then drops like a stone. Before the patent runs out the drug company can charge a fortune because they are the only ones that can make it. Once that runs out they can't. Patent law is there to encourage companies to do R&D. Without it you have the "free rider" problem. If a company pays to do R&D and anyone can profit by it then it makes no sense to do so. You pay all the expenses and someone else gets the benefit.

Jul 29, 2011 10:38AM

I've seen some people scoff at the companies needing the patents to recoup their R&D efforts. Research some - after the structuring of these patents the number of new drugs skyrocketed. Also research how many R&D efforts FAIL to produce a viable drug after spending MILLIONS on it. The companies have to make up that "thrown away" money somewhere - otherwise they'd be out of business.


There's a reason why a lot of the new drugs come from the US. Also, go directly to the company that makes your drug - a lot offer rebates or cards that lower your cost. Also if you HAVE insurance, make sure to ask your pharmacy what the price of the drug is for people without insurance. One drug I'm on is actually $10 less than my copay if I buy it without insurance.


Oh, as for the filler issue - research to see if any generic is made by the same company as the brand, 99% of the time the pills are exactly the same. If it's a different company the fillers/dyes may be different.

Jul 28, 2011 8:56PM

I suspect the drug companies will respond to these expiring patents like they always have. They will develop and patent new and improved variants of their drugs, e.g., better time release, easier to digest, reduced side effects, whatever. Then they will push like hell to make it the new industry standard, which is another way of saying they will provide financial kickbacks and threaten medical providers and insurance companies with patient lawsuits if they don’t prescribe the new version. Patents may expire, but, drug racketeering will continue. However, you don’t have to buy into it. Just insist on the old generics you’ve been using all along. You can also drink tap water which is better for your teeth than bottled water.

Jul 28, 2011 8:47PM
This is just another prime example of the GREED in Corporate America. Something that can be made, put on the market and sold for $16.00 verses charging $170.00 just because its copyrighted. This shows what comes first. Money over the well being of another fellow American.
Jul 29, 2011 10:44AM


"Its about time they came down in price. American is getting the shaft from Doctors and Drug companies. You know it is when some meds are several hundred dollars a month. This is ridiculas. Especially when drug reps are in Dr. offices buying lunches, donuts, and whatever it takes to get their meds passed out. And youo know its true."



Do you have ANY idea what goes into getting a drug to market? Pretty sure not based on what you posted. It takes approximately 1 billion dollars to get one single drug to market for a pharmaceutical company. If ANYTHING goes wrong along the way of a drug it gets scrapped by the FDA and all research and money put into it is gone. Have you ever taken advil, tylenol, anything to help with pain, runny nose, ANYTHING? I'd venture to say yes, and it probably helped you out. So without the drug companies you would never have been able to do that. So please wise up and realize that drug companies aren't out to just rip everyone off as much as they can, they need to make money too and the cost of trying to find drugs that help people is astronomical. Are drug companies perfect? No, but NO corporation is. Pharmaceutical companies do quite a bit of good for the people of America and the world.

Jul 29, 2011 5:49AM

No on the medicare.  I have seen too many people struggle to pay for their meds on medicare.  However as someone who is on lots of meds I am glad to hear of new genrics coming out.  However there needs to be a law that the pharmiscist can not switch the med without the dr and patients permission.  I have had this happen to me many times, when my dr forgot to put dispense as written, The insurance company can then make the pharmicist do the genric, only to get no benefit and have to start all over.  My dr is very good about writing it for the genric if he thanks I will get the benefits.  These insurance companies that try to save themselves money are not drs and need to stop acting like it.

Jul 29, 2011 9:32AM

I see many people don't like my comment, but that is the way it is. Generics are nice and I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I'm currently at the lower end of the middle class. Yet the main goal of a corporation is to make the shareholders (investors) wealthy. Why else would you funnel money into a company that won't make you a return. The 401k system is based on the profitability of public corporations.


There is greed in corporations, we all know that, but many corporations don't hire staff at minimum wage either. Corporations employ jobs. The higher your skill set, the higher your education and experience, the more valuable you are. Most people don't start out wealthy, but with hardwork and dedication you work your way up the ladder. Most executives have a history, they don't start off as execs, so they make more money. It isn't like the government who appoints people to positions that have no experience with that industry/field but are political allies of politicians.


There is a reason why envy is a sin. Jealousy is a productive trait of a society. People want cheaper products, but they also want higher wages as well. That is why much of our manufacturing has been sent overseas because we have high taxes, lots of redtape with employment regulations, workplace standards that accrue costs. The big government has really made it difficult because they are the greedy ones who want more and more and more.

Jul 29, 2011 10:50AM

A few comments before I go.

Asthma inhalers were reformulated to eliminate fluorocarbon propellants which "damage the ozone layer". Sorry. Other products had to change too, but consumer goods are sold in such high volumes that the prices did not change. Room deodorizers, bug sprays, all aerosols were affected. No, Obama did not do it.

Generic substitution laws vary by state. In general generics are very satisfactory substitutes. Perceived differences are usually related to "placebo effect"..... I need the most expensive, newest, "best" drug on the market.

We also see lots of patients who feel that it is their right to have an expensive drug for every minor complaint. Seems like a way to punish their employer by spending lots of money on health care. Then of course they act surprised when their health coverage becomes more expensive. Someone always pays....

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