PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Rising health care costs are
forcing some people to reduce their coverage or drop it altogether. To
provide relief, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon has introduced a
Generics First Antidepressant Program.
The program encourages the use of high-quality generic medications that
have proven track records. "The antidepressant market has substantially
changed over the last several years," said David Clark, vice president of
Medical Services and Pharmacy for Regence. "More generic antidepressants
are available for the majority of patients. Evidence indicates that most
antidepressants are equally effective when comparable doses are used, we're
encouraging our members and physicians to consider generic drugs when
prescribing antidepressants for the first time."
Because generics can meet the needs of most patients, new prescriptions
for name-brand drugs Cymbalta, Lexapro, Paxil CR, and Effexor XR need prior
authorization beginning in September. Prior authorization means Regence
must authorize coverage for the prescription under a member's prescription
drug plan. Prior authorization is not necessary for members already on
these medications. For members starting on one of the brand-name
antidepressants listed, Regence has asked physicians to prescribe a generic
antidepressant such as citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine,
sertraline, mirtazapine or bupropion SR first.
"These generics are a good value for members and are available without
prior authorization," said Clark, who pointed out that a 30-day
prescription of a brand-name drug can cost as much as $83 while the same
prescription of that drug's generic equivalent is only $30.
Clark said the continuously rising cost of prescription drugs caused
Regence, a not-for-profit company, to create its own in-house Pharmacy
Benefit Management (PBM) function for its four affiliate Blue Cross and/or
Blue Shield Plans.
Since the formation in 2000 of RegenceRx, one of the few not-for-profit
PBMs in the country, the cost of managing drug benefits has dropped.
Dollars gained through the use of RegenceRx are used to help keep the cost
of health coverage as low as possible, and the focus of RegenceRx on lower
net costs has saved Regence and our customers more than $400 million since
Clark said RegenceRx performed an extensive analysis of the scientific
data and relative costs for the antidepressant class. Besides treatment in
depression, some antidepressants are also indicated for other conditions,
including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and panic disorder, social phobia,
bulimia nervosa, and post-traumatic stress disorder. For the majority of
patients with these conditions, a generic antidepressant provides effective
"We focus on getting the right medication to the right patient, saving
money whenever appropriate," Clark said. "With the dramatic rise in health
care costs, that's become increasingly important. One of the simplest
things you can do to save on medical expenses is to remember to ask your
doctor or pharmacist if there's a generic alternative for any prescription
drug you are taking."
Clark acknowledged that some people may be skeptical of lesser-known
generic drugs, but said, "The Food and Drug Administration requires that
generics meet the same strict standards of safety and effectiveness as the
equivalent brand name drug. The generic may be a different shape or color
than the expensive brand name, but the active ingredients inside remain the
same and that's what's important."
For more information about RegenceRx, visit http://www.regencerx.com.
Created in 1995, Regence is the largest health insurer in the
Northwest/Mountain State Region, operating Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in
Oregon, Washington, Utah and Idaho. It includes Regence BlueShield of
Idaho, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Regence BlueCross BlueShield
of Utah and Regence BlueShield (in Washington). Through these plans,
Regence provides health, life, vision and dental insurance to nearly three
million members. Regence plans are not-for-profit, independent licensees of
the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. More than one in three
Americans have coverage from the Blues. For more information, visit
SOURCE Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon