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Express Scripts Studies Consumer Healthcare Behavior

Posted Apr 25th, 2008 by Patient Assistance Team
From a financial standpoint, a generic medication is a much cheaper but just as effective alternative to a brand name prescription medication. With prices for prescription medication continuing to go up, it's baffling to think that a majority of patients won't make the switch to a generic unless they are actually forced to do so. Express Scripts Inc., a mail order PBM, has realized that there is more to switching medication then just price and just recently opened a research center focused on determining why patients make the healthcare choices they do.

This isn't exactly a new method of research for Express Scripts either. Over the past two years the company attempted to switch their patients anticholesterol medication. The specific type of drug is classified as statins and are completely interchangeable. So when the generic version of Zocor was released, simvastatin, patients where automatically switched to the generic. But Zocor wasn't the only statin that was popular amongst Express Scripts patients, Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor was still a very popular drug. With Lipitor lacking a generic, Express Scripts removed Lipitor from their most preferred drugs list, forcing a higher co-pay onto their patients in an attempt to switch them to Zocor. But less than 10% made the switch.

If patients had switched from Lipitor to Zocor, they would be placed on the generic, saving a significant amount of money. So why wouldn't the patients switch their medication? Even with all of the material and information that Express Scripts had sent to the patients, few felt comfortable discussing the switch with their doctor and many didn't feel that it was their place to suggest the switch either.

What Express Scripts did next is something that we will begin to see more of in the healthcare industry. They went back to the drawing board to redesign and rewrite all the information that they had been sending to their patients. Their new documents detailed out how the new medication worked in a less complicated and more to the point fashion while also providing them with a letter to present directly to their doctor to request the switch. What once converted merely 8% of their customer base has now converted 53% of their patients in that two year span, just be elaborating on the fact that more expensive medication doesn't always mean it's better for you.

The Center for Cost-Effective Consumerism that Express Scripts has made plans to open will focus on how PBM's like CVS, Walgreens, and Express Scripts can educate their patients while improving their inclination to use generic medications. The savings associated with generic medications is more than enough to merit this sort of research and can really benefit the average individual who doesn't have a preference as to what medication they're taking as long as it works. But the PBM's have no desire to force anyone off of their medications and onto a generic if they really want to stick with their drug.

While generic prescription drugs are much cheaper then their brand name versions, paying for them without prescription coverage is still very expensive. offers a completely free prescription drug card that provides up to 90% off the cost of prescription drugs through Express Scripts, CVS, Walgreens, and other PBM's nationwide. Many pharmaceutical companies also offer a patient assistance program for those who meet the eligibility requirements and need assistance paying for their medication.

Patient Assistance Programs available for the medications listed in this article:

Lipitor Patient Assistance Program

Zocor Patient Assistance Program

simvastatin Patient Assistance Program