Monday, April 17, 2006

Proton Pump Inhibitors

“Scottie, I need more power to the Proton Pump Inhibitors”! Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) may sound like something from a Star Trek movie, but it isn’t.

Instead, a PPI is a medicine to treat heartburn.

Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) is launching a six-month pilot program in the New Jersey area that waives copays for fully insured members changing to generic from brand name proton pump inhibitors (PPI) to treat heartburn or similar symptoms.

Commercial plan members currently filling prescriptions for certain brand name PPIs are eligible for the copay waiver, if they switch therapy to the generic omeprazole 20mg (the generic for Prilosec®).

Pricing 30 tabs at a major chain indicates 20mg Prilosec will run about $160.

Compare that to $15 for generic at Pharmacymex.

It is unclear from the news item if Omeprazole is available in the U.S. or if the plan will allow across the border imports. Many health insurance plans do not cover mail order meds from outside the U.S.

So how much can Aetna save if this change is successful?

Aetna estimates that more than 19,000 of its members in the New Jersey area are now receiving PPI medications, at an annual cost of $3 million

That is a significant number that cannot be ignored.

Here is another interesting tidbit to throw out at cocktail parties.

According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, half the prescriptions being filled in the U.S. are for generics, but annual expenditures for those medications only represent between 10 and 15 percent of the cost for prescriptions in the U.S.

Beam me up Scottie.
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