3 Ways to Convince Your Doctor to Prescribe Generics

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It's a myth that all generic drugs are somehow inferior to expensive name brands. But sadly, even some doctors believe it. Here's what you can do to get the best deal for your budget and your body.

We cover lots of controversial stories here at Money Talks News, from health care reform to foreclosure scams to stock market picks.

But the post that generated the most intense reader comments last year was one called 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic.  As it happens, many readers who pay extra for name brands feel passionately that generics are inferior. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson even felt compelled to write a followup explaining himself.

Many people still think “generic” means “second class.” And if they believe that about, say, bottled water, is it any wonder they don’t want their doctors prescribing generic drugs?

A new study by Harvard University and CVS Caremark shows that even doctors think generic drugs are somehow lacking. Released last week, the study claims, “23 percent of doctors’ have negative perceptions of the effectiveness and quality of generic drugs and that may lead to doctors prescribing unnecessarily expensive medications.”

The lead author of the study, Harvard Dr. William Shrank, explained…

“While there are many studies about how consumers and patients view generics, we thought it would be important to also look at the perception of generics by prescribers, because understanding the physician’s perception can help us determine if there are other potential barriers to the greater use of generics. We don’t have clear insight as to what might influence a prescriber’s behavior [but] we know that if we help patients access less expensive medications, they are more likely to take them.”

We couldn’t agree more. For nearly two years, we’ve been touting generics as a great way for Saving Money on DrugsBut the Harvard-CVS study didn’t dig into the question: Do some doctors really think less of generics, or do they think a lot more about free trips to Hawaii?

We’re talking about doctors who get wined and dined by big pharmaceutical companies to prescribe expensive drugs that may or may not be good for your body and your budget. Over the summer, in an article called Prescription for Trouble, we told you about a Consumer Reports study that shows 63 percent of American believe their doctor is in bed with those big pharma companies – and we quoted stats showing that even in this recession, big pharma’s sales numbers have skyrocketed, from $354 billion in 2007 to $423 billion in 2009.

So what can you do if you believe that generic drugs are the way to go, and your doctor insists on more expensive brands?

1. Don’t ask, do tell

As we’ve advised before, sometimes it’s all in your delivery. Don’t meekly ask, “Can I get this in a generic?” Instead, be direct: “Is there a generic medication that treats this condition?” Now you’ve forced your doctor to honestly answer an objective question. If his answer is yes, tell him you want that particular drug.

2. Younger may be better

In the Harvard-CVS study, doctors over the age of 55 were “3.3 times more likely to have negative perceptions about generics than those between 25 and 34.” So if you’re currently doctor-shopping, you may want to join a youth movement.

3. The truth will set you free – and save you money

If your doctor tries to dissuade you from requesting generics, remind him of the following, which he already knows…

  1. The Food and Federal Drug Administration approves the effectiveness and safety of generic drugs, just as it does for name-brand drugs.
  2. Many generics are the same as name brands. Why? Because the patents on many of those drugs have expired. But the formula is exactly the same.
  3. Generics can cost a whopping 30 to 50 percent less than the same stuff in a name-brand package.
Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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