Big Pharma's patent cliff losses spawn $239B savings on 2013 drug spending

Ralph Neas--Courtesy of GPhA

How much, exactly, do generic drugs save in U.S. healthcare costs? It's a figure that's been growing over the past decade, and 2013 was no exception, a new report says.

Prescription drug copies saved the U.S. health system $239 billion in 2013, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA). That's a 14% jump over the previous year, and it's also the largest annual savings to date.

It's no surprise savings have reached their highest marks over the past few years, with pharma companies running up against the patent cliff and some of the market's best-sellers falling victim to copycats. In 2012, the IP shields came down on major sellers like Forest Laboratories' antidepressant Lexapro, Takeda's diabetes fighter Actos, Merck's ($MRK) allergy med Singulair and others, with their full-year savings hitting in 2013.

Last year's record haul also brought the cost-savings track record over the past decade to nearly $1.5 trillion, a figure Ralph Neas, GPhA's president and CEO, touted as "unparalleled."

Breaking it down, the bulk of the savings from 2004 to 2013 came from cardiovascular drugs--like knockoffs of Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor, the best-selling drug of all time--and central nervous system drugs. Together, the two therapeutic areas accounted for $851 billion in savings--58% of the pinched pennies.

And the savings are only set to keep growing when biosimilars hit the scene, providing cheaper rivals to the world's best-selling drugs. Currently, biosimilar developers have targets on products like Remicade, the Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) blockbuster anti-inflammatory that reaped $8.39 billion in 2013 sales.

To Neas, it's a "clarion call" to lawmakers and regulators to keep the copies coming. "We must work together to sustain the success of generics today and pave the way for safe, affordable biologic therapies tomorrow," he said in a statement.

- read the release

Special Report: Top 15 drug patent losses for 2013 | Top 10 Drug Patent Losses of 2014 | Top 10 generics makers by 2012 revenue