The risks and costs of multiple-generic substitution of topiramateSYMBOL

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To investigate clinical and economic consequences following generic substitution of one vs multiple generics of topiramate (Topamax; Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Titusville, NJ).


Medical and pharmacy claims data of Régie de l'Assurance-Maladie du Québec from January 2006 to October 2007 were used. Patients with epilepsy treated with topiramate were selected. An open-cohort design was used to classify the observation period into periods of brand, single-generic, and multiple-generic use. One-year generic-switch and switchback-to-brand rates were estimated using Kaplan-Meier methodology. Medical resource utilization and costs were compared among the three periods using multivariate regression analysis.


In total, 948 patients were observed during 1,105 person-years of brand use, 233 person-years of single-generic use, and 92 person-years of multiple-generic use. A total of 23% of generic users received at least two different generic versions. Compared to brand use, multiple-generic use was associated with higher utilization of other prescription drugs (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 1.27, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.24–1.31), higher hospitalization rates (0.48 vs 0.83 visit/person-year, IRR = 1.65, 95% CI = 1.28–2.13), and longer hospital stays (2.6 vs 3.9 days/person-year, IRR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.27–1.60), but the effect was less pronounced in single-generic use (hospitalization: IRR = 1.08, 95% CI = 0.88–1.34, length of stay: IRR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.03–1.23). The risk of head injury or fracture was nearly three times higher (hazard ratio = 2.84, 95% CI = 1.24–6.48) following a generic-to-generic switch compared to brand use. The total annualized health care cost per patient was higher in the multiple-generic than brand periods by C$1,716 (cost ratio = 1.21, p = 0.0420).


Multiple-generic substitution of topiramate was significantly associated with negative outcomes, such as hospitalizations and injuries, and increased health care costs.

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