Some insurers switch to cheaper drugs

Nov. 30, 2010 at 12:51 AM

UPPER NYACK, N.Y., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Health insurers change as much as 70 percent of medication prescriptions, resulting in adverse reactions among some patients, a U.S. survey indicates.

A survey by the Global Healthy Living Foundation, a non-profit patient advocacy group, found some patients with chronic conditions who responded well to a particular drug relapsed after being switched to a cheaper drug.

"This disturbing finding is not a simple case of switching a brand-name drug for a generic one, a common and generally accepted practice used for many illnesses, and one GHLF supports," Louis Tharp, executive director of the GHLP, says in a statement. "We found that health insurance companies throughout the U.S. switch one brand-name drug for another simply because the switched drug is cheaper -- if the drugs are identical, physicians generally have no objection, the survey found, but national medical groups have said most drugs are not identical and switching can cause adverse reactions and poor recovery rates."

Tharp says his group is working with other advocacy groups, state insurance commissioners, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state attorneys general to see what action can be taken to stop the practice.

"Switching is a practice that is starting to get a lot of attention," Tharp says.

"Legislation pending in New York, California and Missouri would outlaw this practice," and, he added, "Louisiana passed a law last year prohibiting it."

No survey details were provided.

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