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Expiring Patents to Lower Drug Prices

People using expensive medications can rejoice. Their medical expenses may go down soon. This is because in the coming months, many top-selling drugs will go off-patent, paving the way for generic versions.

In fact till 2016, blockbuster drugs garnering $255 billion global sales annually are set to go off patent. Generic competition is expected to plummet the price of these drugs, benefiting patients.

Generic versions are soon expected of important and widely used drugs for conditions like bipolar disorder, HIV, high triglycerides, depression, diabetes, asthma and blood pressure. The generics flood will last for more than a decade as about 120 costly drugs are expected to go off patent.

Industry experts say 15% of Americans are currently using some drug whose patent is set to expire this year or in 2012. This will mean considerable savings for them as generic drugs are sometimes 80% less expensive than branded ones.

Health experts say this will make health care and medicines affordable to more people. Uninsured patients will benefit the most, as they can save more on medications, for which they have to pay the full price.

Generic medicines are cheaper but equally effective. Last year, generic prescriptions cost an average of $72, compared to the $198 average for brand-name drugs. Co-payments for generics are also much less.

Lesser revenue for big pharma companies is expected to change the face of the industry. Pharmaceutical firms have downsized 10% of their US workforce in the last four years. They are also boosting overseas sales in emerging markets like India and China.

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