Pharmacists support generic drug substitution, but need more information to advise customers

Pharmacists and their customers could benefit from having more information to help them understand and compare the costs of prescription drugs, according to a new AARP study that looks at attitudes and practices regarding the use of generic drugs.

Most pharmacists agree that generic drugs must be therapeutically equivalent with brand name drugs, and most support generic substitution, the study found. More than two-thirds (68%) of pharmacists say they support generic substitution for brand name drugs in most cases and about one-third (32%) say they support generic substitution for brand name drugs in all cases where a generic is available.

Pharmacists say their customers frequently want to talk to them about their prescription drugs costs. However, only one-third say they only feel somewhat prepared for this conversation, and only 60% say they understand their customers' concerns about drug costs very well.

The vast majority of pharmacists - more than eight in ten (85%) - say it is somewhat or very important for the new Medicare drug benefit to promote the use of generic drugs. The benefit takes effect in 2006. But, more than half (53%) say they need resources such as brochures or other handouts to advise their customers about the new benefit. Half (52%) also say they need information on such things as pricing, formularies, and benefits to help them in carrying out this role.

Data for the study were collected online from a panel of pharmacists who completed a self-administered questionnaire between May 9 and May 19, 2005. Among the 502 respondents, about 70 percent represent chain or grocery pharmacies. Thirty percent represent independent pharmacies.

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