It seems like more and more Americans will switch to generic drugs from brand-name drugs due to high prescription drug prices. In fact, high drug prices have been taking a staggering toll on the U.S. healthcare system.

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that using brand-name prescription drugs over generic drugs costs the Medicare Part D program around $1.7 billion each year.

Federal laws promote the use of affordable generic drugs, but the study has found that both doctors and patients requested a brand-name drug over its generic version 30% of the time in 2017.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, looked at nearly 169 million prescriptions. Of those, 8.5 million were of brand-name drugs even though there are generics available for those drugs.

The researchers found that 17% of the brand-name drugs were dispensed on doctors’ request, while 13.5% were requested by patients themselves.

Study author Dr. Gerard Anderson said in a university release, “Even with laws in place, requesting a brand name drug happens way more frequently than it should. This dispensing pattern results in exponentially higher costs for both the Medicare Part D program and patients.”

The study findings suggest that patients could have saved more than $160 million if their doctors requested generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs. Also, patients could have saved an extra $109 million if they had requested generic drugs.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that $4.42 billion was spent on brand-name prescription drugs, which were not specifically selected by doctors or patients.

The team recommends a federal program to offer generic alternatives when available. They also suggest improving the perception of generic versions by doctors, which could be an important step in persuading patients to ask for a generic drug rather than the more expensive brand-name drug.

Prof. Ge Bai said, “Patients should always be mindful of the extra costs for themselves and for taxpayers associated with requesting a brand-name prescription drug.”

“Prescribing clinicians can also play an important role in educating their patients on the safety and effectiveness of generic drugs,” she added.

The issue of rising prescription drug prices tends to be one of the ongoing problems in the United States. Recent research has found that drug prices are 2.56 times higher compared to the prices in 32 other nations.