Poughkeepsie. . . Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today an initiative of the Dutchess County Health and Human Services Cabinet intended to help reduce pharmaceutical costs in the County’s state-mandated Medicaid program.
“While counties have no ability to control the state-authored rules and regulations of the New York State Medicaid program, we are evaluating various service categories to see what we can do to help contain Medicaid costs for our taxpayers without affecting the quality of health care needed by consumers,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Pharmaceutical costs, as well as other healthcare related costs, continue to increase at an alarming rate.”
Mandated costs to the Dutchess County budget for Medicaid’s prescriptions and related expenses have soared over the past five years from $4.8 million in 2000 to $8.2 million in 2004.
An educational outreach program has begun which will provide area physicians with a letter alerting them to simple steps they can take to assist in reducing healthcare costs both to the consumer and to taxpayers. With many new medications becoming available on the market, many individuals do not realize that less expensive, but equally effective alternatives are sometimes available.
Physicians are being asked to partner with Dutchess in this venture by considering the following steps when planning the most appropriate treatment option for patients:
- voluntarily prescribing the least costly, efficacious and clinically appropriate treatment option available, including lower cost brand name prescription pharmaceuticals, generic equivalents and over the counter medications; and
- educating patients on generic vs. brand name drugs.
At the request of County Executive Steinhaus, Dr. Michael Caldwell, Dutchess County Commissioner of Health, and Betsy Brockway, Director of the Dutchess County Health and Human Services Cabinet, have asked Dr. John Costa, President of the Dutchess County Medical Society, to join in this outreach effort.
“The newest and most expensive medications are not necessarily more effective than similar drugs that have been on the market longer,” said Commissioner of Health Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH. “Some consumers have been mistakenly led to believe that the less expensive forms of a medication, commonly referred to as generic, are of a lesser quality or will not work as well.”
Commissioner Caldwell indicated the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates drugs by assuring that all prescription and over-the-counter medications are safe and effective. Generic versions of brand name medications must use the same active ingredients, work the same way in the body, in the same amount of time, with similar risks and benefits as their brand-name counterparts. Generic versions must also have the same quality, strength, purity, and stability. The only difference found between them is the shape, size, color, flavor, and other inactive ingredients.
“Partnership between the physician, patient and the healthcare system is of utmost importance,” said Steinhaus. “Offering viable alternatives for brand name drugs that are both effective and efficient is essential.”
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The Dutchess County Health and Human Services Cabinet was established by County Executive Steinhaus in 2005 and is composed of the Commissioners and Directors of the County Departments of Health, Mental Hygiene, Social Services, Office for Aging, Probation and Community Corrections, Veterans Services, Youth Bureau and representatives from the Budget Office and County Executive Office. The cabinet serves as a high-level executive management team to address issues affecting multiple departments, to develop strategies to maximize the county’s resources, to conduct cross-systems planning, and to share information on departmental best practices. Betsy Brockway serves as Director.