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Aetna Offers Copay-Free Period To Promote Appropriate Use Of Generic Antidepressants


HARTFORD, Conn.— Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) today announced the launch of a program that waives copays for six months when members change from brand-name antidepressants Lexapro or Paxil CR to generics citalopram or paroxetine, respectively. The program is not available in all states or under all benefit plans. This class of drugs is an addition to the current portfolio of drugs included in the copay waiver program, which includes statin cholesterol reducers, proton pump inhibitor (PPI) acid reducers, and nonsedating antihistamines.

“Aetna’s Save a CopaySM program has already shown success in driving usage of generic drugs used to treat other conditions, such as high cholesterol,” said Steve Meholic, head of Aetna Pharmacy Management (APM). “Our members save on the copay, and the program can help control the increasing cost of prescription drug benefits because generics are less expensive than their chemically equivalent brand-name counterparts.”

The success of a 2006 pilot of the program in New Jersey, which focused on PPI acid reducers, was showcased at the recent Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy Annual Meeting. At the meeting, Aetna Pharmacy Management presented the results of the pilot program, which showed a significant decrease in pharmacy costs for those members who elected to switch from select brand-name PPI medications to the generic alternative.

Historically, prescription drug spending for this antidepressant class has been significant. In 2006, Aetna paid over $56.7 million in claims for Lexapro and Paxil CR for its fully insured business.

In Aetna’s experience, 59 percent of all prescription claims processed by Aetna Pharmacy Management are for generic drugs. This free copay program is part of an effort by APM to encourage individuals to use generic drugs, where appropriate and with the approval of their physician. The switch to generics can help employers and employees save on the rising cost of prescription drugs.

In fact, in 2005, the average retail price of a generic prescription drug was $29.82, while the average retail price of a brand-name prescription drug was $101.71, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office reports that generic drugs save consumers at least $10 billion a year.

After the initial six-month period, members continuing on the generic pay the lowest copayment according to their pharmacy benefits plan.


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