Generic drugs are less-expensive versions of name-brand drugs that are produced and distributed after a patent has expired. In the United States, drug patents last for twenty years, after which time a generic version may generally be sold. Once a generic is available, competition often drives down prices on both the original brand name product and the generic.
Name-brand drugs are very expensive and insurance companies often limit coverage of these prescriptions. In fact, 78% of the nation's drug costs come from name-brand drugs, even though these drugs comprise only 25% of prescriptions written. Meanwhile, generics cost much less, accounting for only about 22% of prescription drug spending in the U.S., even though they represent nearly 75% of prescriptions.
Increasing access to generics will save money for Minnesota families. In the 111th Congress, Senator Franken was an original cosponsor of S. 1630, the Affordable Access to Prescription Medications Act. This legislation would protect consumers from unexpected drug costs by limiting consumer co-payments for any single prescription to $200, and limiting total prescriptions costs in any month to $500. He has also cosponsored S. 27, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, which would increase access to generics by enhancing competition in the pharmaceutical industry.