SOURCE: HealthPartners

May 11, 2007 11:25 ET

Generic Form of Ambien Sleep Medication Now Available

HealthPartners Projects $4 Million Annual Saving

BLOOMINGTON, MN -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 11, 2007 -- A generic version is now available for Ambien® (zolpidem), a widely prescribed sleep aid. Since Ambien lost patent protection on April 21, the price for zolpidem has dropped from more than $4 to less than 25 cents per tablet, or $100 per month to less than $10. The price of Ambien® increased by over 30 percent in the last year.

"This represents a significant savings for health plans and consumers because prescription sleep aids are one of the most widely used and fastest growing drug classes," said Richard Bruzek, HealthPartners vice president of pharmacy services. "This doesn't however, change our main concern which is the appropriate use of drugs by patients, whether brand or generic."

HealthPartners costs for sleep aids increased 60 percent from 2005 to 2006. About 7,000 HealthPartners members have prescriptions for Ambien®.

"The introduction of this generic will significantly decrease patient and plan expenses for this category of drugs," Bruzek said. Sixty-seven percent of HealthPartners prescriptions are for generic drugs, an increase of over 15 percent in just three years. Every one percent increase in the use of generic drugs reduces HealthPartners plans and member costs by $7 million annually.

This year, the patent expired on Norvasc®, prescribed for hypertension. In the upcoming year, patents are also set to expire on other widely used brand name drugs including Coreg®, prescribed for heart failure, and Zyrtec®, prescribed for allergies.

About HealthPartners

HealthPartners is the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation with commercial and Medicare Advantage plans that received the highest rating of "Excellent" from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

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