FORT MYERS, FL (WBBH/NBC) - A projected $28 billion in drug cost savings is on the way next year alone; and by the end of the decade, that figure will skyrocket to $116 billion.
The patents on dozens of popular brand-name drugs are expiring, meaning consumers can look forward to cheaper generics instead.
Cindy Jo Rush takes Lipitor and Zetia every night to ward off high cholesterol.
"These little bottles right here - extremely expensive little bottles," she said. "Lipitor every month, which I have to take because of hereditary really high triglycerides, costs $159.16."
The Zetia costs another $119 per month.
The businesswoman and mother says she doesn't have an alternative than to pay for the pricey pills.
"Your choices are that or a stroke or a heart attack, which is - I have two daughters; they're 10 and 7. I have to take the pills," Rush said.
In what pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions calls "a tidal wave," more than 20 brand-name blockbuster pills for chronic conditions will lose their market exclusivity in the next 14 months, and about 120 will lose it by the end of the decade.
That competition means huge savings for customers.
"Lipitor, which is probably one of the top 100 drugs on the market, is going to have an enormous savings for the customers," said T.J. DePaola, a pharmacist.
DePaola says generic competition drops drug prices by 20 percent initially, and over time as much as 80 percent off current prices.
This means insurance companies may pick up the tab also.
"They're not going to pay $4 a pill, but they may pay for $2 a pill," DePaola said.
By 2020, expect to see generics for Plavix, Singulair, Celebrex, Nasonex, and even Viagra.
DePaola says the generics are safe, too.
"It's not like it was in 1980 where there were questions and doctors could see a big difference," he said.
Rush is excited for generic Lipitor later this year. However, she says she can wait.
"I have two young kinds. We have to eat. We have to drive. We just can't pay $300 a month. I'll take my chances until November," she said.
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