Most of us are experiencing it - rising health care costs.

The escalating rise in coping with health care has forced many Americans to make tough decisions.

One of those decisions is whether to use brand name prescriptions, or switch to generic medications that have the same effects.

In most cases, generic drugs work just as well and just as fast as the name brands. The big difference is they're cheapear. In a lot of cases they're a lot cheaper. The price difference is significant.

In recent months, the Carbon County Prison Board elected to implement a new policy on prescription drugs by switching from name brands to generic. The decision has proved to be a good one, as the monthly cost for inmate prescriptions has dropped a whopping 49 percent.

As in all cases, there are times when generic drugs aren't prescribed for certain illnesses or conditions. But, as proved with the savings at the Carbon County Prison, the switch to generic in many cases can bring significant savings.

For example, in August, the county saved $2,859 from July's bill.

The biggest area where savings occurred is in the distribution of psychotropic drugs, a mood stabilization medication. This is a drug that one in every three county prisoners takes, well above the national average.

In the county's case the medical staff and psychiatrist devised a policy to describe generic brand drugs, then if they didn't work, another evaluation of the patient would be ordered, and a switch to a name brand, such as Seroquel would be recommended. The board also determined that once an inmate is released from prison, he would more likely continue to stay on the generic drug because it is more economical.

The cost of maintaining the county prison continues to rise every year. It's an expensive facility to maintain. But at least in one case, the county found a way to save money, while, at the same time, maintain the same level of performance. If generic drugs are suitable for the general public, then they should also be suitable for those who are incarcerated, and under the county's care.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com