NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Can Lower Patients' Drug Costs

September 10, 2001

By prescribing cheaper drugs or generics, physicians can often reduce out-of-pocket expenses for patients who lack health insurance. The problem is that doctors are often oblivious to their ability to help patients save.

  • In one study, 80 percent of the 134 physicians surveyed said they often don't know how much their patients paid for prescriptions.
  • And when those doctors were asked to estimate the cost of 33 common drugs, they underestimated the price 40 percent of the time, according to the October 2000 Archives of Internal Medicine.
  • In another study, it was found that after doctors were informed and reminded of the potential savings from prescribing less costly but equally effective alternative drugs, prescriptions for the most costly anticoagulant, for example, dropped 32 percent -- while orders for the least expensive jumped 20 percent.
  • As for ulcer and anti-inflammatory drugs, orders for the most costly dropped 50 percent -- while orders for the expensive rose 28 percent.

Source: Tara Parker-Pope, "Doctors Often Hold the Key to Paying Less for Prescriptions," Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2001.

For WSJ text (requires subscription)


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