I got an unusual request last week. I had written a prescription of a generic medication (which has been generic for a couple of years) and the prescription was denied by the insurance carrier. The reason for denial: I had to try a brand-name medication first.
Stop. Read that again. They wouldn’t allow me to give a prescription for the (cheaper) generic drug because I had to try the brand-name medication first. This is opposite of the usual reason for denial, the availability of a cheaper alternative than the prescribed drug, and, to my knowledge, is the first time I have ever seen it upside-down like this, and I have been in the ring for the duration of the drug formulary death cage match of awesomeness. I’ve seen it all unfold.
Here is what happened.
I am not, like many physicians and patients, against the idea of cost-control through the use of drug formularies. Medications are very expensive (unnecessarily expensive, as I have discussed previously), and the previously strong influence of drug reps made many doctors quick to jump for the latest and greatest medication. I did this myself, during the first few years of practice – before the advent of drug formularies.
We were constantly detailed on new NSAID’s, antibiotics, cholesterol, and blood pressure pills. There was always a reason the latest drug was worth using over the old one (sounds a lot like fancy smart phones, doesn’t it?), and since insurance paid the same for brand drugs, I was often influenced by the drug reps.