Skip to Content

Generics account for record 47% of Express Scripts' prescriptions in first quarter

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI, April 23, 2003 -- Generic drug utilization reached an all-time high of 47 percent of all prescriptions processed by Express Scripts during the first quarter of 2003, up from 45.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002, and 43 percent in the first quarter of 2002.

The company, one of the nation's largest managers of pharmacy benefit plans, attributed the increase to aggressive promotion of generic drugs, especially of generic versions of several heavily used brand drugs, which entered the market during the last 18 months: Prozac, Glucophage, Zestril/Prinivil, and Zestoretic/Prinzide.

"Generic drugs save money for both our clients and members, helping Express Scripts fulfill its mission to make the use of prescription drugs much more affordable," said Barrett Toan, chairman and chief executive officer of Express Scripts.

Toan noted that the money-saving opportunity that comes with generics will continue to grow. During the next five years, patents on brand name drugs representing $32.3 billion in sales will expire, representing 16.8 percent of U.S. prescription drug sales in 2002. For example, this year, the ACE inhibitors Accupril and Monopril are among the brand name drugs scheduled for patent expiration. In 2004, drugs losing patent protection will include the anti-infective Cipro and the anti-depressant Celexa, among others.

Express Scripts relies on choice and financial incentives to encourage greater use of generic drugs by pharmacy benefit plan members. It recommends to its clients that members pay the lowest copayment for generic drugs and provides members with online tools and information to determine how much less they would pay when opting for generics. One example of this is an online tool, PriceCheck (sm), available to members via, which allows a member to look up his or her copayment on a prescription, as well as that of the generic equivalent, if one is available.

In addition, more clients are choosing to institute step therapy programs which require the member to try a lower-cost alternative, often generic, prior to a more expensive brand product unless their physician deems the original prescription to be medically necessary. Express Scripts has also developed a low-cost formulary for clients that want to maximize the savings possible from greater use of generic drugs, where available, and low-cost brand name drugs where a generic equivalent is not available.

In another Express Scripts generics program, the company is co-branding materials developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to educate members and physicians that generic drugs are safe, effective and FDA approved. Consumers should know that FDA puts all generic drugs through a rigorous, multi-step approval process. From quality and performance to manufacturing and labeling, generic drugs must meet FDA's high standards.

Express Scripts is also increasing the amount of information it provides to physicians and pharmacists about generic drug alternatives, through point of care electronic prescribing pilots, visits and calls to physician offices and messages to pharmacists when prescription claims are submitted.

Source: Express Scripts

Posted: April 2003