CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - In response to the soaring use of prescription drugs and their escalating costs, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced today the Demand Generics campaign.

The new statewide educational effort is designed to heighten awareness among doctors and patients of the health benefits and cost-effectiveness of generic drugs.

“Tennessee leads the nation with nearly 18 prescriptions per man, woman and child,” said Dr. Steven Coulter, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BlueCross. “With the rising cost of prescription drugs, it is important for providers and patients to be aware of the medications they are prescribing and taking, and to recognize that safe and affordable generic options are available.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee statistics indicate that a 1 percent increase in the use of generic drugs, rather than using brand-name drugs, equates to a 1 percent savings on the total cost for prescription drugs, helping individuals and employers reduce their health care costs.

During 2002, BlueCross members increased their use of generics by 3 percent. The result was $10 million dollars in savings.

“Using generic drugs is one critically important way we can all contribute to saving money on health care today,” Coulter said. “Our objective is to educate the patient, the physician and pharmacist on the value of a cost-effective, clinically sound prescription drug formulary and to urge them to prescribe a generic medication when appropriate.”

A primary cause of rising prescription drug costs is the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies. Government and private research indicates that in 2001 more than $21 billion was spent promoting the use of prescription drugs, resulting in nearly $75 on promotion to each U.S. citizen.

According to Dr. Terry Shea, director of pharmacy services for BlueCross, advertising and other promotional efforts by pharmaceutical manufacturers have influenced consumers to turn to more expensive name-brand drugs.

“Consumers are inundated with television commercials showing them the great benefits of brand-name drugs, and there is little information available for them about generics,“ Shea said. “BlueCross is trying to fill this information void and dispel the myth that generics aren’t as safe or effective as their name-brand counterparts.”

The Food and Drug Administration requires all generic drugs to have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs. Despite their clinical equality, generic drugs cost, on average, 50 percent less than brand-name medications.

Demand Generics campaign materials include physician office posters, pharmacy counter cards, and various online resources such as the generic drug calculator. These promotional efforts are designed to encourage discussion between health care providers and their patients about rising costs in health care and the cost-effective alternative of generic drugs.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.