NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 1, 2005

The Consumer Union (CU) has released a half-dozen detailed reports evaluating widely used categories of prescription drugs and comparing generic, brand name and some over-the-counter medications. Physicians can use these reports to educate themselves and their patients on how to wisely spend their money, says the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Supporters claim that it may be the only initiative in the country that offers objective, evidence-based comparisons in nontechnical language and targets people with no drug coverage. Additionally, it offers an alternative to direct-to-consumer advertising that pushes brand-name drugs; now patients have the opportunity to know which generic equivalent will meet their needs, says JAMA.

The project has produced reports on six categories of medications: angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, antidepressants, statins, β-blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and proton pump inhibitors. In the latter category, esomeprazole (or Nexium) and over-the-counter omeprazole (or Prilosec) were compared.

  • Omeprazole was designated the best buy over 17 other generic and brand-name prescription alternatives.
  • The difference in the cost between the two was found to be substantial; the average monthly cost of 20 mg of esomeprazole is $171 while 20 mg of omeprazole is $24.

Additionally, the CU has developed outreach programs:

  • In Atlanta, it has scheduled programs for older adults, the uninsured and low-income individuals to show them how to use the reports.
  • There are plans to organize outreach programs in other states so those without Internet access will be able to access the reports.

The CU reports are a good starting point to choose effective and cost-effective medications, concludes JAMA.

Source: Rebecca Voelker, "Easy-to-Use Drug Reports Help Patients and Physicians Weigh Costs, Benefits," Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 294, no. 2, July 13, 2005.

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