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Docs Often Suggest Pricier Meds for Reflux: Study

But store brands and generics of these OTC medications are much cheaper, researchers note

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, May 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors often recommend brand-name drugs for acid reflux and chronic constipation instead of cheaper store brands, costing patients more money, a new study finds.

The survey included more than 800 gastroenterologists across the United States who were asked about their drug recommendations for patients with the two digestive conditions. The study was funded by generic drug maker Perrigo.

The study found that 63 percent of the doctors would recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) drug, rather than a prescription medicine, to treat acid reflux.

However, while three-quarters of the doctors felt that OTC brand-name and store-brand proton pump inhibitor drugs were equally effective, 54 percent of them recommended brand-name drugs to patients at least one-third of the time.

For chronic constipation, 95 percent of the gastroenterologists said they would suggest OTC treatments such as fiber supplements, osmotics and stool softeners. If those therapies failed, 70 percent of the doctors said they would still recommend an OTC treatment as a second option. Few said they would suggest a prescription drug.

"Despite feeling that name-brand and store-brand laxatives are equally effective, the majority of gastroenterologists surveyed continued to recommend name-brand laxatives and underestimate the cost savings associated with buying store brands," study author and gastroenterologist Dr. William Chey, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, said in a university news release.

Chey and his colleagues found that less than one-third of the doctors in the study knew that generic drugs could be more than 20 percent cheaper than brand-name medicines. Doctors who had been in practice 20 years or more were more likely to suggest generics than younger doctors.

The study was to be presented Saturday during the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in Chicago.

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