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Generic or Brand Name? Psychiatrists’ Prescribing Habits In a Single Site Study

November 11, 2010

Prescription drug costs are receiving plenty of scrutiny during the ongoing United States national healthcare debate. Prescribing generic medications is cited frequently as a cost-saving measure, but even that thread of conversation prompts questions about whether generics are as safe or effective as their branded counterparts. In a June issue of Psychiatry Weekly, editor Norman Sussman, MD, wrote that, in his own practice, prescribing branded medications in lieu of an available generic equivalent can start a protracted “fax war” with insurance companies or managed care providers, who question the more expensive therapy. In other cases, he wrote, pharmacies might fill a prescription with a generic medication, unbeknownst to clinician or patient.

Yakir Vaks, MD, at the Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, New Jersey, and colleagues, conducted a retrospective analysis of antipsychotic and antidepressant prescriptions in a single outpatient psychiatric setting. Out of 200 charts for patients seen by a group of 10 physicians over a 1-month period, they identified charts of 84 patients who received a prescription for an antipsychotic or antidepressant. The patient cohort was not selected according to any other criteria. In this cohort, 48 charts indicated an antidepressant prescription and 36 charts an antipsychotic prescription. The charts were classified further between those containing generic and brand name prescriptions.

The overwhelming majority of prescriptions in this cohort were brand name: 40 of 48 antidepressants prescribed, and 35 of 36 antipsychotics prescribed, were brand name. Across both groups, 11% of prescriptions were for generics, 89% for brand name.

“Generics offer a lower cost treatment alternative helping to lessen total health care expenditures and improve patient compliance,” Vaks and colleagues wrote. The authors also wish to see clinicians made aware of the advantages of generics for some patients, concluding that “[i]t is imperative for clinicians to switch their prescribing practices to this beneficial alternative whenever possible.”

(APA 2010, Poster NR2-57) –Lonnie Stoltzfoos

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From → Pharmacotherapy

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