NU Online News Service, Oct. 7, 2004, 2:43 p.m. EDT

A major managed care company says it has succeeded at changing the way plan members buy drugs.[@@]

WellPoint Pharmacy Management, an arm of WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., says members have increased use of generic drugs 2.7 percentage points in the past 12 months.

The shift toward generic drugs should lead to at least $1.30 in savings per member per month, WellPoint estimates.

WellPoint manages pharmacy benefits for more than 31 million U.S. residents.

WellPoint has promoted use of generic drugs by changing its “formulary,” or preferred drug list; starting promotional programs to encourage doctors and patients to use generics; sending a newsletter that promotes use of generic drugs to plan sponsors and physician groups; and offering a generic drug coupon program to encourage patients to switch to generic drugs when generics were prescribed by their doctors.