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The generic alternative

    A new report indicates the prescribing of generic drugs in upstate New York continues to increase because of greater acceptance and a rise in the number of popular brand-name medications  coming off patent.

   The percentage of prescriptions filled with a generic alternative across upstate rose last year from 63.9 percent to 68.4 percent and in Western New York from 68.4 percent to 72.7 percent, according to an updated analysis of prescription patterns released by Univera Healthcare and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, its Rochester-based parent company.

   The health insurer estimated that the increased use of lower-cost generics resulted in a savings of $369 million in medication costs in 2008 alone.

    A generic drug is chemically identical to a brand name drug and can be produced once the patent protection expires for a brand name drug. Generics typically sell for significantly less than their brand-name counterparts.

   Greater use of generics is seen as one way to control soaring health care costs. But doubts still exist about whether some generic drugs are identically effective compared with their brand name counterparts.

   --- Henry L. Davis

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