Winter 2000
Vol. 17 No. 4
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


National Model of Excellence

Soldier and Soldat

Studying Guide-by-Your-Side

Love Those Statistics!

These Were Close, Too

Other Stories
Willingness to Change Made Education School Most Effective

Faculty Compendium

Watching for Patent Expiration Dates Can Save Consumers on prescription Drug Costs

Bennett Cites Influence of a Great Teacher, Dean Percy Burns

A Cappella Choir CD Available

Floyd, Marler Receive $56,000 Lilly Fellows Program Grant

Debow, Sansom Get $32,000 Award from Atlas, Templeton

Samford Honors Alabama Ministers
Scofields Rate a Homecoming Cheer
for Loyal Support of Their Alma Mater

Crimson Editors Half a Century Apart
Find Differences, Similarities in the Job

Having a ball at Homecoming

Men's Cross-Country Team Wins Second TAAC Title; Kolb Named All-TAAC Freshman After Nine-Goal SeasonCLASS NOTES


Winter 2000

Watching for Patent Expiration Dates Can Save Consumers on Prescription Drug Costs

Consumers who rely on prescription drugs know well that costs for such remedies are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. Many are older people on fixed incomes with no outpatient drug benefit.

What can they do?

In some cases, generic drugs are the answer. They are less costly, and in most cases, just as effective as the better known brand names.

A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in generic drug use would cut drug costs in the U.S. by more than $11 billion a year.

"Every percentage point of increased generic drug usage translates into a savings of over $1 billion annually," said Dr. Timothy Covington of Samford's McWhorter School of Pharmacy.

One thing consumers can do is watch for patent expiration dates on brand name drugs. Once a popular drug loses its patent protection, less-costly generic drugs enter the market.

According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, four such drugs are scheduled to lose patent protection in 2001: Prozac, used in treating depression, Feb. 2; Prilosec, an ulcer treatment, April 1; Mevacor, to lower cholesterol, June 15; and Zestril, to treat hypertension, Dec. 30.

If no generic substitution is available, over-the-counter remedies can sometimes be substituted for more expensive prescription drugs, according to Covington. The anti-inflammatory Motrin and the ulcer remedy Zantac are examples.

Drug producers receive a 20-year patent on brand name remedies because of the huge research and development investments necessary to bring a new drug to market. Once the patent expires, generic drug producers don't have to spend as much to produce the same basic remedy, so they can charge substantially less.

Even so, generic drugs must also be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

What else can consumers do to lower drug costs if their remedy is still under patent protection? They might be able to use "me, too," or copycat medications.

"'Me, toos' can represent modest therapeutic advances-perhaps they have fewer side effects, or you only have to take them once a day instead of every eight hours," said Covington. "But not always. Sometimes, copycat drugs aren't any better relative to effectiveness or safety, and they have to compete purely based on cost."