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More people turn to generic drugs as costs rise

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: More people turn to generic drugs as costs rise
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The rising price of brand name medications has driven up the costs at the pharmacy for Upstate New Yorkers during the past decade. But that same time period also saw more people turn toward less expensive alternatives. Sarah Blazonis has more on why some say generic drugs are becoming more popular.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Pharmacist Colin Valenta says the beginning of the year can bring a bit of sticker shock to customers filling prescriptions. That's when some insurance plans restart their deductibles, leading to higher out-of-pocket expenses for some.

"What happens then is the patient ends up missing medication or not taking it at all because of the cost and that's where the generic, maybe similar, alternatives come into play," said Valenta.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield says about 80 prcent of prescriptions filled in Upstate New York are for generic drugs. That's up from less than 50 percent ten years ago.

"We've developed this acceptance for generics and the generics work well and they're less expensive. Everybody saves money and the system benefits by that," said Arthur Vercillo, regional president for Excellus.

Excellus says less expensive generics are a welcome alternative to brand name drugs, whose prices can rise quickly. The company estimates people are paying an average $67 more per month for those prescriptions now than they did two years ago. It's a cost not just passed onto patients and insurance companies.

"If it's a person who is on a government program, well then society and all taxpayers bare a large part of the burden of the cost of that medication," Vercillo said.

Officials say another positive for patients came when several blockbuster drugs for conditions like high cholesterol, blood thinners and depression went generic. Excellus says it works to keep doctors informed about new generics and those who work directly with patients do the same.

"I have several patients where I've recommended when a generic is not available, pointed them in the right direction, either to their doctor or the manufacturer's web site to get discounts on the brands," said Valenta.

And keep a little more money in their wallets.

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