Good health is the greatest gift of all, of course, but a little something extra under the tree is always nice, too.
Savings made possible by generic drugs for conditions that affect you or a family member mean extra money for other necessities — or enjoyable activities like ordering a special dinner or buying holiday presents for loved ones.
According to a recent report from the Association for Accessible Medicines, generics saved U.S. patients and our overall health care system $313 billion in 2019 and close to $2.2 trillion over the past decade. Biosimilars, a less well-known class of medicines that provide comparable treatment to expensive biologic drugs, saved patients $2.2 billion in 2019 and $4.5 billion over the past 10 years.
What does that translate to at the pharmacy counter? More than 9 out of 10 generic prescriptions are filled for $20 or less.
Affordability is only part of the generic and biosimilars story. According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, “Generic drugs go through a rigorous review process to receive FDA approval. The FDA ensures a generic medication provides the same clinical benefit and is as safe and effective as the brand-name medicine that it duplicates.” The same active ingredients, strength and quality mean you can take generics with confidence.
To help you appreciate your generic savings, here are some facts related to specific conditions. (You can find out even more here.)
- More than half of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Generic drugs saved them $50.1 billion in 2019, including $27.6 billion in savings for the treatment of anxiety and depression.
- Thanks to generic drugs, taxpayers and patients saved $49.9 billion on treatment of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer in the United States each year, and more than 609,000 cancer-related deaths annually. Total savings from generic cancer drugs came to $13.6 billion in 2019 and $87.8 billion over the past 10 years.
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates that 25 million Americans have asthma. Savings for these patients, together with those who have allergies, totaled $5.8 billion in 2019 and $36.1 billion over the past 10 years.
- The CDC estimates that 3 million adults and 470,000 children are living with epilepsy. Generics saved them $20.3 billion in 2019, and savings for the past 10 years total $149.1 billion.
- According to the CDC, 16 million Americans have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, generics saved these patients $9.2 billion, and savings for the past 10 years total $60 billion.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Generics saved Alzheimer’s patients $3.5 billion in 2019, and savings for the past 10 years total $22.2 billion.
These savings contribute to public health in America and enhance the nation’s health security. Tens of billions of doses of generics and biosimilars are made right here in the U.S. and hold down our government health care spending, including $96 billion and $48.5 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings, respectively.
Throughout the pandemic and beyond, the life-saving and money-saving drugs have continued to reach the people who need them — from manufacturer to distributor to pharmacy counter, hospital or mailbox. In the words of Dan Leonard, CEO of AAM, “The COVID-19 public health emergency in 2020 has shown America that the generics and biosimilars industry is fundamentally strong and essential to saving lives.”
Generic savings grow year after year, but they shouldn’t be taken for granted. Federal and state legislation could jeopardize the savings we enjoy or impede even greater savings from happening. AAM’s Take Action page has tools for making sure your voice is heard.
While the world waits for the manufacture and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, treatments for other diseases and conditions remain a daily necessity for many of us. Nine out of 10 prescription medicines we take are generic, and these drugs are saving patients and taxpayers serious money. Like health itself, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.