Although most physicians are comfortable with generic drugs, a small segment still have negative perceptions about those medications, which affect their prescription choices, according to a study by Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark Corp.


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Some doctors still uncomfortable prescribing generics

January 11th, 2011

WOONSOCKET, R.I. – Although most physicians are comfortable with generic drugs, a small segment still have negative perceptions about those medications, which affect their prescription choices, according to a study by Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark Corp.

And in a separate survey, CVS Caremark found that more than half of consumers polled had yet to get a flu shot.

The company said Tuesday that Harvard, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark researchers found that 23% of doctors have negative views of the effectiveness and quality of generic drugs and that may lead them to prescribe unnecessarily expensive medications.

In a study published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, the researchers stated, "Overall, we found that the majority of physicians are comfortable with the efficacy of generic medications and are comfortable using generics themselves. However, there is a meaningful proportion who express concerns about generics. ... These beliefs could represent an important barrier to greater generic use and could contribute to elevated prescription costs for patients, insurance providers and society."

The researchers surveyed more than 2,700 doctors and received 506 responses from prescribers representing both specialists and general practitioners. More than 60% of the physicians surveyed were ages 35 to 54, with those over 55 representing about 30% of the survey group; physicians ages 25 to 34 made up 9% of the respondents.

Physicians 55 or older were 3.3 times more likely to have negative perceptions about generics than those ages 25 to 34. While the doctors said they were aware some patients struggle with the costs of medications, there was little relationship between the doctor's perception of cost burden and their perceptions of generics, the researchers said.

In addition, when doctors were asked how they are informed about the market entry of a generic medication, 75% said they receive their information from the pharmaceutical representatives. Other sources of information included medical journals (42%), colleagues (40%), and pharmaceutical mailings and literature (38%).

The researchers also said that the study is limited by the sample that was surveyed. While the sample was drawn from a large source, the response rate was low, and physicians who did respond may have differed from the overall population.

"Payors and policy makers attempting to stimulate cost-effective medication use should consider educating physicians, particularly older ones, to improve their comfort with generics," the study concluded.

Meanwhile, a recent CVS/pharmacy "Flu Review" survey showed that 56% of respondents still have not received their shot, although 93% are aware that there already have been reported cases of the flu this season.

The company noted that flu activity is steadily increasing in the United States, with eight states now reporting widespread outbreaks of influenza cases, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

According to the CDC, the month with the highest percentage of flu cases — at nearly 50% — is February, yet many consumers are unaware that the highest-risk month is just ahead. The CVS/pharmacy survey found that 32% of consumers polled thought the flu season peaked in November and December, and 37% incorrectly believed that getting the flu shot can give you the flu.

"If you haven't already received a flu shot, it's not too late," stated Papatya Tankut, vice president of pharmacy professional services at CVS/pharmacy. "Since the vaccine takes up to two weeks to become effective, it's important to act now so you'll be protected in February, when most flu cases are generally reported."

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