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Independence Blue Cross reports more members using generics compared with the national average for Blue Cross Blue Shield membership

Spending increases for brand drugs at Independence are lower than national average

At more than $100 billion, prescription drugs represent more than 20 percent of overall health care spending for Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) commercially insured members. Prescription drug spending among branded specialty and patent-protected drugs continues to outpace generic drugs by $79.5 billion, according to an update to last year’s study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). This simple fact explains the incredibly important role of generic drugs in keeping health care affordable for Americans.

At Independence Blue Cross (Independence), 88 percent of prescriptions filled in 2017 were for generic drugs, which is 5 percent higher than the national figure. Independence’s total spending for brand drugs increased 2.5 percent, compared with the national increase of 4 percent.  Independence also saw higher utilization of branded specialty drugs which account for five percent of prescriptions filled and 52 percent of total branded drug spend, versus three percent and 34 percent nationally.

“The good news is that more of our members are using generics when they are available, and doctors are prescribing them more often to their patients,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Independence.  “Our top priority is to make sure that health care is affordable, so that people can access the care they need to get healthy and stay healthy.”

The report, which encompasses eight years of drug utilization, price changes and overall spending, examined why the rise in use of generic drugs has been unable to contain the overall cost increase for medication, driven in large part by branded prescription drugs. Some of the national findings include:

  • More expensive branded prescription drug spending is up 4 percent since 2016. Branded prescription drugs comprise only 17 percent of total prescriptions filled but account for 79 percent of overall drug spending at $79.5 billion.
  • Steady annual increases in branded patent-protected prescription costs drive the majority of spending in the branded drug space, growing 5 percent in the past year alone.
  • The growing market share of inexpensive generic drugs continued to slow the increase in total drug spending. While generic drug spending has declined 3 percent since 2016, it hasn’t kept pace with the rapid rise in the number and cost of branded drugs.

BCBSA also published a list of the top medications by spending during 2017 across the BCBS system. The top three drugs on the list are used to treat autoimmune disorders:

  • Humira®
  • Remicade®
  • Enbrel®
  • Novolog®
  • Neulasta®

This is the twenty-second study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights in health care affordability and access to care.

For more information, visit:

*Medical claims for 41 million commercially insured BCBS members were reviewed for this analysis, but the raw number that is written is an extrapolation to account for the 88 million members who currently have BCBS commercial coverage.

**Pharmacy claims were used to estimate total spending and utilization.

*** Humira®, Remicade®, Enbrel®, Novolog®, and Neulasta® are the property of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube or follow us on Twitter.

About BHI
Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) is the nation’s premier resource for data-driven insights about health care trends and best practices, promoting healthier lives and more affordable access to safe and effective care. BHI leverages a team of analytics experts and advanced technology, coupled with access to the greatest number of health care claims — 172 million lives — gathered over 10 years in a safe, HIPAA-compliant, secure database. The resulting conformed, reliable data set has the broadest, deepest pool of integrated medical and pharmacy claims, reflecting medical utilization in every ZIP code. Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) is an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. BHI is a trade name of Health Intelligence Company, LLC.

Media contact:
Ruth Stoolman
215-241-4807 (o)
215-667-9537 (c)