SOURCE: HealthPartners

June 21, 2006 13:39 ET

Generic Version of Cholesterol Drug Zocor Available June 23

HealthPartners Projects up to $14 Million in Reduced Drug Costs

BLOOMINGTON, MN -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 21, 2006 -- HealthPartners projects that drug costs for treating high cholesterol will decline by as much as $14 million annually when the patent expires this Friday for the brand name drug Zocor. The patent expiration makes the generic version simvastatin available for the second-biggest-selling cholesterol-lowering drug in the U.S. Simvastatin was pre-shipped to all HealthPartners pharmacies and will be available for sale beginning Friday.

"HealthPartners drug cost increases have dropped to single digits for two years in a row and increased use of generics is one of the biggest factors behind that trend," said Richard Bruzek, vice president of HealthPartners pharmacy services. The average prescription for Zocor is $171. The final price for simvastatin has not yet been released, but generic drugs are generally 30 to 80 percent lower than the brand version.

Zocor is one of six top selling drugs that will lose patent protection in 2006. "Last year, six in ten prescriptions for our members were for generic drugs and we expect that to increase five to ten percent in 2006," said Bruzek. Since 2002, HealthPartners has increased generic drug usage from 45 percent to 60 percent. Every one percent increase in the use of generics reduces HealthPartners expenses by nearly $5 million.

The availability of a generic version of Zocor will also reduce out-of-pocket expenses for the 15,000 HealthPartners members who take Zocor. The average co-pay for generic drugs is $20 less than brand name drugs.

Another top-selling drug that will lose patent protection this month is Zoloft, A generic version of the most commonly prescribed drug for depression will become available beginning June 30, 2006.

About HealthPartners

HealthPartners (www.healthpartners.com) 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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