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Big-name drugs go generic
July 26th, 2011
04:18 PM ET

Big-name drugs go generic

Some of the most popular prescription drugs are about to get a lot cheaper.  According to the mail-order pharmacy Medco, at least 22 prescribed medications may be available as generics in the next year.

When drug companies develop a drug the FDA usually grants them exclusive rights to market that drug for a set period of time.  When those rights expire, other companies can make the exact same drug.  Since there is competition, the generics are cheaper.  The FDA says the regulations are “designed to promote a balance between new drug innovation and generic drug competition.”

 Medco compiled a list of drugs and when they are expected to become public.

Among major drugs on the list for the next year:

  • Lipitor, a popular cholesterol drug, goes generic in November.
  • Solodyn, used to treat bacterial infections,  November.
  • Zyprexa, which treats schizophrenia,  October.
  • Lexapro, used to treat depression,  March
  • Provigil, which treats sleep problems, April
  • Plavix, an antiplatelet drug which can prevent blood clots, May.
  • Singulair, an Asthma drug, August 2012.

Drugs becoming available as generics can save patients a great deal of money.  CNN called local pharmacies across the country to get an idea of how much a 30-day supply of some of these brand-name prescriptions cost.

20mg Lipitor is nearly $186, 75mg Plavix runs $215 dollars, 10mg Singulair is $182 dollars and Zyprexa runs more than $400 dollars for a 30-day supply of the 5 milligram dosage.

There’s no clear indication how much cheaper the generic versions of the drugs will be, but for comparison the well-known depression drug Prozac became generic 10 years ago.  Now it sells for less than $16 dollars for a one-month supply.

Patients taking brand-name medications that won’t go generic for years may also be able to save money.  Often there are similar drugs that, while not being exactly the same, may work for you.  For example, patients taking a drug like Lipitor can ask their doctor if a cheaper cholesterol-lowering drug is an option.  Lovastatin sells for four bucks a month, and though different from  Lipitor might work for some patients.

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