Dispense-as-written Rxs 
exacerbating healthcare costs

“Dispense-as-written” prescriptions are exacerbating medication nonadherence and costing the U.S. healthcare system up to $7.7 billion annually, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and CVS Caremark.

Researchers estimated that patients in the study would have saved $1.7 million and health plans would have spent $10.6 million less for the medications if effective generic alternatives had been provided in place of brand-specific medications. Assuming a similar rate of dispense-as-written requests for the more than 3.6 billion prescriptions filled in the United States annually, patient costs could be reduced by $1.2 billion, and overall health system costs could be reduced by $7.7 billion.

Researchers also found that when starting new essential therapy, particularly among chronically ill patients with dispense-as-written prescriptions, patients were 50% to 60% less likely to actually fill the more expensive brand-name prescriptions than they were to fill generics.

The study reviewed 5.6 million prescriptions adjudicated by CVS Caremark for 2 million patients from Jan. 1 to 31, 2009.

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