NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Consumers Want Brand Name Drugs For High Risk Conditions

August 9, 2000

A recent survey in Wisconsin looked at the consumer's willingness to buy generic rather than brand name prescriptions when different amounts of cost savings and perceived risk were involved. The survey looked at prescription drugs for five medical conditions - heart problems, high blood pressure, strep throat, pain and cough.

  • For all of these conditions except heart problems, most consumers believed that generic drugs were no more risky (no less effective, and so on) than brand name ones.
  • As consumers saved more money and their perceived risk of using generic drugs decreased, they were more willing to purchase generic drugs.
  • The number who would not select a generic substitute varied with consumers' perceived risk from the condition -- over 97 percent would use a generic drug for a cough while less than 73 percent would purchase generic medications for heart problems.

When risk was considered low, consumers would switch to generic substitutes for less than $2 in cost savings. When risk was believed to be high, consumers required cost savings of over $15, and even that was ineffective to sway some consumers.

The study suggests that generic prescription purchases could be increased by educating consumers about the safety and effectiveness of generic drugs by pharmacists.

Source: Julie M. Ganther and David H. Kreling, "Consumer Perceptions of Risk and Required Cost Savings for Generic Prescription Drugs" May/June 2000, Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, 2215 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington D.C. 20037.


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