SACRAMENTO, CA: A quartet of California health plans - Blue Cross (operated by WellPoint), Blue Shield, Health Net, and PacifiCare of California - have put their faith in PR as they embark on an initiative to educate consumers about the benefits of generic medications.
The program - called The Generic Advantage - intentionally focuses on PR instead of advertising, said Bobby Pena, president of BPcubed, the PR agency hired to assist the four companies with the launch and media outreach.
"We are trying to demonstrate a strong intention to remind doctors and educate members about cost benefits," said Pena. "This is about education, not marketing."
The program encourages physicians to increase the number of generic prescriptions they write, when appropriate. The participating health plans last week began disseminating educational materials on generic drug safety and efficacy to doctors, who have agreed to pass the information along to patients.
Discount coupons, which are to be attached to new prescriptions for generic medications available through the program, were also sent to physicians. When patients use the coupons, they can save up to $10 on their co-payments.
The intent of the educational and discount materials, according to Pena, "is to get people to see that this is not just about savings for the health plans." If members start asking for generics, he added, "they are going to see out-of-pocket savings."
The generics that are available through the program are mostly for treating chronic conditions, which require patients to make repeat visits to pharmacies. Under California's tiered drug benefit program, co-payments on generics often run lower than half that of a brand-name drug.
"We, as health plans, have an obligation to keep medication costs down. With this, we're trying to facilitate discussions between doctors and patients so that we begin to see that happen," explained Lisa Mee-Stephenson, WellPoint's corporate communications manager.