CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Demand Generics campaign generated $18.6 million in savings during 2003—a figure that shows Tennesseans are getting the message that generic drugs are safe, effective and affordable.

“We’ve worked closely with our members, providers and pharmacists to spread the news about the cost-effectiveness and health benefits of generic drugs,” said Dr. Terry Shea, director of pharmacy services for BlueCross. “And those efforts have paid off for both BlueCross and our members.”

Claims data for 2003 reveals members saved $5 million in out-of-pocket expenses through lower generic copayments.

“It’s impressive to see the cumulative savings, but it’s equally exciting for individual members to realize those savings at the point of purchase,” said Shea. “On average, a person choosing generics over brand-name drugs can save 20 percent on out-of-pocket costs each time they visit the pharmacy.”

In 2003, BlueCross commercial members filled more than 4.8 million generic prescriptions, an increase of 2.8 percent or 322,031 prescriptions over the previous year’s total.

“Our education efforts are working to reverse the effects of the pharmaceutical industry’s billion dollar advertising and promotional tactics,” said Shea. “Before our campaign began, many Tennesseans didn’t have the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision about generics. Now they are learning that generics are clinically equal to their expensive name-brand counterparts and that they’re FDA approved.”

Demand Generics campaign efforts have ranged from pharmacy counter cards and outdoor billboards to online education tools and one-on-one outreach with physicians.

The campaign continues this summer as BlueCross repeats last year’s successful brand-to-generic coupon incentive. The coupon lets BlueCross members skip a copay for trying the lower-cost generic version of their current prescription medication. The coupons are being sent directly to members and their eligible covered dependents.

According to Shea, the coupon, as well as various campaign tools, will continue to be used as long as drug costs continue to escalate.

With projected drug cost trends of 11 to 13 percent for the next three years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that spending on prescription drugs will be the fastest-growing component of health care spending, more than hospital or physician expenditures.

“We must continue to encourage the discussion between health care providers and their patients about how generics can help combat rising prescription drug costs and contribute to health plan affordability for us all,” Shea said.

To learn more about generic drugs or for Demand Generics campaign materials, visit the “Generic Drugs” link on www.bcbst.com.

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.