According to a recent article published in the American Journal of Medicine, three little words are costing patients big bucks. The phrase, “Dispense as Written,” is used by physicians in order to let the pharmacist filling your prescription know they must use a brand-name drug, as opposed to its generic counterpart.
Due to the fact many pharmaceutical drugs are no longer covered by patents, they can be manufactured by any company that makes prescription drugs, not just the company who originally invented the product. The manufacturing, marketing and sale of generic drugs have been a huge success in the United States and their use has saved the healthcare industry billions of dollars. At present, approximately 70 percent of all prescriptions written in this country are filled with a generic as opposed to brand.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts and also carry the same dosage, safety, strength, method of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. Combine this fact with reports that use of generic products saved the American healthcare system more than $800 billion in the last decade, and it’s easy to understand why many states mandate that pharmacists dispense a generic drug whenever possible.
However, there is a way to get around these state mandates. The three words, “Dispense as Written,” accompanied by a check mark beside the box with the letters DAW, can essentially override the law. The article published in the American Journal of Medicine reported that out of a sample of 5.6 million prescriptions written for more than two million patients; approximately five percent were designated by physicians as DAW. While this may not seem like a large percentage, should the generics have been used, the savings would have been substantial.
Take the example of using the anti-cholesterol drug, Zocor. According to Drugs.com, a 90-pill bottle costs $459.98. A 90-pill bottle of simvastatin, the generic version of Zocor, costs only $83.97. Moreover, if simvastatin is purchased via a retailer’s special pricing program, the cost comes down to only $12.
Given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, protecting the makers of generic drugs from liability associated with patients experiencing negative side effects as a result of using their products, it’s easy to see why this multi-layered issue continues to remain a cause for concern.
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