Franklin Lakes, N.J. - Patients are 58% more likely to switch to a lower-cost prescription drug when assisted by an online tool that allows them to compare prices, a new study from pharmacy benefit manager Medco reveals. 

The Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Medco provides services to managed care organizations (e.g., HMOs), e-health plans and to insurance carriers such as Premera Blue Cross, Mountlake Terrace, Wash.

The company unveiled its online tool, Savings Advisor, in March 2006 and studied the usage habits of more than 55,000 patients for 180 days. Half of the patients used the tool, and the other half did not. The study concluded that those who used the tool were more likely to change their prescriptions to cheaper alternatives, compared to the control group.

On average, patients switching to a lower-cost alternative saved $171 annually per drug on their out-of-pocket expenses. Employers also are likely to reap big savings when their workers use lower-cost drugs.

About 14% of patients using the tool switched their medications. Half of the conversions made in the tool-user group were from brand-name drugs to generic drugs, while 26% involved a change from retail to a less expensive mail-order service.

"Effective online tools enable cost-effective behavior," says Tom Feitel, Medco's chief Web officer. "When consumers are presented with clear alternatives, they will make smarter choices in spending their health care dollars."

Source: Employee Benefits News

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