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May 9, 2016

Johansen_Michael_listingCOLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. spends more on healthcare and pharmaceuticals than any other country, yet has room for improvement in terms of efficient drug use. 

There’s tremendous opportunity to save tens of billions of dollars while improving efficiency of the healthcare system, according to research published today by JAMA Internal Medicine.

“We observed an estimated potential savings of $73 billion overall and nearly $25 billion in out-of-pocket expenses throughout the three years of the study,” said Dr. Michael Johansen, a family medicine physician from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Johansen analyzed data of 107,132 individuals from the 2010-2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which is nationally representative of the general population each year. The survey contained self-reported prescription drug use.

“We wanted to see how much patients and society as a whole could save through the use of therapeutic substitution, in terms of both overall and out-of-pocket expenses on brand drugs, when a generic drug in the same class with the same indication was available,” said Johansen, also principal investigator of the study. 

Therapeutic substitution was defined as substituting chemically different compounds within the same class for one another. 

According to the study results, investigators reported $760 billion was spent on prescription drugs, and extra money spent due to brand drug overuse accounted for almost 10 percent of total prescription drug expenses.

In addition, out-of-pocket expenditures between 2010 and 2012 totaled $175 billion, of which brand drug overuse accounted for over 14 percent.

Researchers noted the drug classes with the highest excess expenditure included atypical anti-psychotics, statins, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, proton pump inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers.

Authors concluded that the use of therapeutic substitution is controversial but it offers tremendous potential savings if there are systems in place to ensure safe patient outcomes and high levels of collaboration within the medical community.

Dr. Caroline Richardson from the University of Michigan also participated in the study.

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Contact: Sherri Kirk, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or Sherri.Kirk@osumc.edu.