Nebraskans are paying more for brand name and specialty drugs along with the rest of the nation, according to the latest Health of America study from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Last year in Nebraska, usage of inexpensive generic drugs increased to 85 percent of total prescriptions filled, yet they made up just 15 percent of the spend. Brand name and specialty drugs made up 80 percent of drug spending in the state. Nationwide, use of generic drugs increased to 83 percent of total prescriptions filled and accounted for 21 percent of the total drug spending in 2017, according to the study.

Patent-protected brand name prescription drugs made up 52 percent of the drugs filled but accounted for 66 percent of the total branded drug spending.

Branded specialty drugs made up only 3 percent of the prescriptions filled but accounted for 34 percent of the drug spending.

A generic drug has the same chemical make up as a branded drug but without a patent making them less expensive. Specialty drugs are usually purchased through a specialty pharmacy and are often administered by injection.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Debra Esser says Nebraska physicians are doing a good job prescribing generics but there’s more to be done.

“Consumers need to have a discussion with their doctors about the price of prescription drugs,” said Esser. “With high deductible plans branded and specialty drugs can cost a great deal of money and the patient may end up not taking the medications because of it.”

Esser advises ask for a generic drug whenever possible because that that will help curb health care costs.