Boosting Their Generic Dosage

Brand loyalty looks increasingly anemic in the prescription-drug sector. Comparison of a pair of Harris Polls — one released last week and one conducted in October 2006 — makes this clear. Each survey asked people who buy prescription drugs to say how often (if they had a choice in the matter) they’d prefer a brand-name drug to the generic alternative, or vice versa. In the new survey (fielded in December), 40 percent said they’d “always” choose the generic — up from 23 percent saying so in the 2006 poll. Conversely, the number saying they’d always go for the brand-name drug fell to 4 percent in the new poll from 9 percent in the earlier one.

The new survey detects a parallel shift in where people buy their prescription drugs. The number typically doing so at “a local independent pharmacy” has fallen from 12 percent in 2006 to 8 percent in the new poll. There also has been a decline in the proportion buying at chain drugstores like CVS (from 39 percent to 33 percent). Taking up the slack have been increases in the number buying at “the pharmacy at a discount store like Wal-Mart, Target or Sam’s Club” (from 13 percent to 17 percent) and the number buying online or by mail order (from 11 percent to 15 percent).