This past year and a half has brought us generic versions of some blockbuster drugs. What this meant was the expensive brand name drug isn’t your only option. While most of the time, when your medication becomes generic you will save money, strangely it may also hurt you. If you are on a brand name medication that now has a generic option in the same class of drugs, your insurance company will want you to switch to that generic . . . which isn’t always a good option. I’ll show you what I mean.
The game changers:
1. Losartan, the generic Cozaar: Losartan was the first in its class of angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to become generic making it a huge winner, yet making other brand name ARBs even more expensive. You will notice now that if you are on an expensive brand name ARB like Diovan, Micardis or Avapro, your insurance will want you to switch.
3. Levofloxacin, the generic Levaquin: This convenient once-a-day antibiotic was playing second fiddle to ciprofloxacin when it was an only available as an expensive brand name. It is now available in generic form as a once-a-day antibiotic for urinary infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, and bronchitis which is also good news for consumers.
4. Escitalopram, the generic Lexapro: This antidepressant was costing many folks a lot of money. Lexapro is/was popular because of its favorable side effect profile and its effectiveness for both depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Now, it’s generic.
5. Sumatriptan, the generic Imitrex: The first “triptan” migraine medicine to go generic was sumatriptan. Sumatriptan works well for migraines but tends to have more side effects than the other triptans. It’s good news that sumatriptan is available as a generic, but it will make insurance companies loathe to pay for Maxalt-MLT, Relpax, Amerge or Frova. So though they may work better for you than sumatriptan, they will cost big bucks.
6. Meloxicam, the generic Mobic: This anti-inflammatory is safer on the stomach than the NSAIDS and is called a Cox 2 inhibitor. Meloxicam is the first Cox 2 inhibitor to become generic, which will make Celebrex, the other Cox 2 player, way more expensive.
7. Pantoprazole, the generic Protonix: While omeprazole has been generic for a while, many GI doctors thought Protonix was more effective, and now it’s cheaper. That’s all good news except for those still taking brand names in this class like Nexium, Aciphex or Dexilant – now those will cost you an arm and a leg.
8. Zolpidem, the generic Ambien: Zolpidem was the first of the newer class of sleep medications to become generic, which was good news for consumers, unless you try to get Lunesta covered by your insurance which won’t easily happen now.
9. Fluticasone nasal spray, the generic Flonase: This was the first nasal steroid spray often prescribed for allergy symptoms to become generic. Again, this is great news unless you try to get Nasonex or Omnaris covered by your insurance plan.
10. Metaxalone, the generic Skelaxin: As we moved away from sedating muscle relaxants like Soma (carisoprodol) and Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) Metaxalone was a popular non-sedating, non-narcotic muscle relaxant that used to cost people a ton. Now, it’s generic and cheaper, which is good.
The generic versions of the above medications are typically covered by insurance as Tier 1 medications, falling under your lowest co-pay. Where the brand names are still covered, they will likely be Tier 3 medications, meaning you will pay your maximum co-pay – and more often, they will not be covered at all. Generic prices range from $10- $15 per month for medications that are less expensive or have been available longer, like zolpidem or pantoprazole, to $75 – $100 per month for more costly medications like atorvastatin or metaxalone.