PR Team: Medco Health Solutions (Franklin Lakes, NJ) and Coyne PR (Fairfield, NJ) Campaign: Generics First Pilot Program Time Frame: October 2000-October 2002 Budget: $200,000-$300,000Every 1% increase in generic-drug use results in savings of $1.16 billion nationwide, according to a report issued by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA). Generics must meet the same FDA standards required of brand-name products, but can cost up to 70% less. Although more than 40% of all prescriptions currently dispensed are generics, some healthcare service providers, such as Medco Health Solutions, feel that number can grow as generics gain more acceptance among patients and physicians. Strategy In the fall of 2000, Medco developed Generics First, a program designed to promote the increased use of generic equivalents and alternatives as initial therapy in place of more expensive brand-name drugs whenever clinically appropriate. After handling the program for the first year entirely in-house, and conducting a midpoint analysis that demonstrated success, the company hired Coyne PR to carry out the rest of the pilot. "Rather than specific medications, this educational effort spoke about generic drugs in general," explains Kevin Lamb, account supervisor for Coyne PR. "Because of DTC advertising, there is a tendency to jump straight to brand names. We wanted to make sure clinicians and consumers were aware of the less-expensive options." Tactics Generics First focused on the four largest therapeutic categories based on drug spend and generics-prescribing opportunity: antihypertensives, antidepressants, gastrointestinal, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Medco and Coyne enlisted pharmacists who began conducting monthly one-on-one meetings with 1,700 physicians in 10 US states, in which pharmacists offered detailed clinical and cost information on generic drugs. Doctors were encouraged to consider generic alternatives to brand names. Free generic medication samples were made available to physicians through a third-party sample-fulfillment system that distributed drugs on behalf of participating makers of generics. Based on the b-to-b nature of the program, media outreach targeted corporate decision makers. Stories were placed in relevant outlets such as AP, Bloomberg, Investors Business Daily, and The New York Times. In an attempt to reach those who make decisions about company benefit plans, namely HR managers, trade publications such as Employee Benefit News, Managed Healthcare Executive, and Managed Care Outlook were also pitched. Results Generics First demonstrated a 22% jump in the generic-prescribing rates of physicians participating in the program over the prescribing rates of a comparison group of physicians in 2001. Each pharmacist was also found to have achieved an average of nearly $1 million in drug-spend savings for Medco clients during the 12 months of physician office visits. Participating physicians ordered 1.25 million generic samples, which amounted to 7.5 million days of therapy, demonstrating that physicians embraced the use of samples to increase the amount of generic medications they were willing to prescribe as first-line therapy. Future Based on the pilot's success, Medco plans to expand Generics First in 2003 to include up to 20,000 physicians. The company expects to increase the number of pharmacists by 33% and to include 15 states. As a result, the number of physicians receiving visits from Generics First pharmacists is expected to more than double, to 3,400. Medco also plans to invite 4,500 physicians to contribute to an e-education supplement that will offer Generics First information online. "As we move from the pilot to the real program, we want to do more than play up an anniversary story," says Ann Smith, Medco public affairs director. "When you pitch healthcare and medical reporters, anniversary stories aren't strong enough. We are trying to get across the clinical and educational messages."