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J Gen Intern Med. 2007 May;22(5):645-8.

What's in a name? Use of brand versus generic drug names in United States outpatient practice.

Author information

  • 1Division of Geriatrics, San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA. mike.steinman@ucsf.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The use of brand rather than generic names for medications can increase health care costs. However, little is known at a national level about how often physicians refer to drugs using their brand or generic names.

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate how often physicians refer to drugs using brand or generic terminology.

DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS:

We used data from the 2003 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), a nationally representative survey of 25,288 community-based outpatient visits in the United States. After each visit, patient medications were recorded on a survey encounter form by the treating physician or transcribed from office notes.

MEASUREMENTS:

Our main outcome measure was the frequency with which medications were recorded on the encounter form using their brand or generic names.

RESULTS:

For 20 commonly used drugs, the median frequency of brand name use was 98% (interquartile range, 81-100%). Among 12 medications with no generic competition at the time of the survey, the median frequency of brand name use was 100% (range 92-100%). Among 8 medications with generic competition at the time of the survey ("multisource" drugs), the median frequency of brand name use was 79% (range 0-98%; P < .001 for difference between drugs with and without generic competition).

CONCLUSIONS:

Physicians refer to most medications by their brand names, including drugs with generic formulations. This may lead to higher health care costs by promoting the use of brand-name products when generic alternatives are available.

PMID:
17443372
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1852907
Free PMC Article
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