Marisa OlsonContact Email:
For many of us, the freedom to purchase generic drugs means big savings at the pharmacy counter. While the average brand-name prescription drug will set us back $119.50, the average retail price of a generic prescription drug is just $34.34*. And the savings for generics can be even greater with $4 offerings at several of the large chain pharmacies. The opportunity to save money is a no-brainer, and is one of the reasons generic drug use is a whopping 75 percent in the United States.
But what if you weren’t sure you could trust the quality of a generic drug? Or what if your physician simply didn’t offer it as an option, and out of respect, you felt you shouldn’t ask? These are just a few of the reasons generic drug use in Japan is hovering around a low 15 percent, a stark contrast to US usage.
“The current financial model provides Japanese physicians with little financial benefit to utilize generic drugs,” explained Dr. Richard Stefanacci, director of the Center for Medicare Medication Management and an assistant professor of health policy. “Unlike the Food and Drug Administration, the Japanese government has not promoted generic medicine quality, and as a result, physicians have clinical concerns.”
Dr. Stefanacci, who is also director of the University’s Institute for Geriatric Studies, explained that with greater availability of generic drugs, Japanese consumers would see reduction in out of pocket expenses for medications, which could lead to a higher level of adherence. In addition, the introduction of generic medications into the market aids in pushing research pharmaceutical companies to be more innovative since they can no longer rely on older name-brand medications to support their organizations.
The University’s Mayes College of Healthcare Business and Policy is playing a pivotal role in encouraging the increased use of generic medications in Japan. In December, Dr. Stefanacci traveled to Tokyo and presented to key Japanese stakeholders at the Generic Medicine Meeting. Dr. Stefanacci’s presentation, 3 trillion yen: US Policies Promoting Generic Drug Use, provided key insights into the approach the US has taken to achieve high utilization of generic medications.
These presentations were well received and laid the foundation for stronger relationships with the International University of Health & Welfare in Japan and with key stakeholders in the generic medicine field, including Mylan Pharmaceuticals and the Japan Society of Generic Medicine.
Dr. Stefanacci’s trip has opened the door for University of the Sciences students to learn both here and in Japan. With the support of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, he is also working to organize a Japan US Generic Medicine Fellow program. Additionally, Mayes College is planning to present and help sponsor a second generic medicine summit in Japan, to serve as an opportunity for the Fellow to present and share his/her findings in an interactive discussion with key leaders in the Japan generic medicine movement as well as leaders from the US.
“Mayes College is dedicated to improving healthcare outcomes for individuals in the United States and beyond our borders, and the increased use of generic medications is a critical component in achieving better health outcomes,” said Dr. Stefanacci. “It is this belief, along with the unique opportunity and strong academic partners, that make Japan a special place for attention. We are now positioned to help them move from greater understanding to action.”
*The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, 2007