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Expanding the Use of Generic Drugs

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Dramatic growth in the use of generic drugs has generated substantial savings for American consumers. To examine how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can encourage the use of generic drugs, the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) examined barriers to, and opportunities for, expanding the use of generic drugs. In this Issue Brief, we summarize the findings of ASPE's review of the existing literature on this topic. We begin by briefly reviewing trends in generic drug use, the legislative origin of generic drugs in the United States, and the pathways by which generic drugs can reduce healthcare costs. Next, we examine the literature on generic drug pricing and the associated healthcare savings. We group information on barriers to generic drug use in three broad areas: state laws on generic substitution, factors related to availability of generics, and consumer and prescriber perceptions and behavior. [19 PDF pages]