Dishonorable Discharge: Military Cuts Nexium from Preferred Drug List
The importance of allowing generic versions of “blockbuster” drugs onto the market is seldom talked about, but affects all of us. Access to generic drugs can significantly lower costs for not only the purchaser, but also for health care providers. This fact was the driving force behind the recent announcement that the U.S. military is removing Nexium from its list of preferred drugs.
Tricare, the health care program for uniformed service members and their families, will no longer include the drug Nexium on its preferred drug list effective June 28, 2017. This change means the drug, which is a proton pump inhibitor used to treat chronic heartburn caused by acid reflux, will no longer be available in military hospitals and clinics.
The Department of Defense entered into an agreement with Nexium’s manufacturer AstraZeneca back in 2007, eight years before a generic version of Nexium was approved by the FDA in 2015 under the name Esomeprazole. Since then, several generic alternatives have become available, and AstraZeneca’s sales of the drug steadily declined.
In an interview with Military Times, Defense Health Agency spokesman Kevin Dwyer explained the role generic alternatives played in Tricare’s decision to remove Nexium.
“Tricare is constantly working to provide its patients with the highest quality of care at the best possible cost to both them and the government,” Dwyer said. “For this reason, when the Department of Defense’s 10-year-old preferred pricing agreement with AstraZeneca ended on April 1, Tricare began phasing Nexium out and recommending three less-expensive medications that work equally well for most patients.”
According to Dwyer, the change will save about $1.6 million a day in health care spending, adding up to about $584 million per year.
The amount of savings for taxpayers by simply adopting a generic alternative is absolutely staggering. Unfortunately, drug manufacturers often try everything in their power to stall generic versions of their drugs from reaching the market. Wexler Wallace is no stranger to this behavior; in addition to trying numerous antitrust cases against drug manufacturers, we also served as co-lead counsel in a case against AstraZeneca over alleged “pay-for-delay” practices for generic Nexium marketing. These actions ultimately harm the purchasers who rely on medication like Nexium to maintain their quality of life. And with the rising cost of health care in America, generic alternatives are often the deciding factor for seeking treatment.
Photo: Senior Airman Lesley Perry, pharmacy technician. Credit: U.S. Air Force