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Generic vs. Brand Name: Are You Compromising Quality for Cost Savings at the Pharmacy?

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According to the FDA, today in the United States nearly 8 in 10 prescriptions filled are for generic drugs. Since the patents of a number of brand-name drugs are set to expire through 2015, the popularity of generic drugs is only expected to grow in recent years. Growing evidence demonstrates that for many patients, generics are a smart choice. Here’s a look at the difference between these two types of prescription medications.

The Difference between Generic and Brand Name Medications

Every medication produced today has a generic name, which is almost always the name of the drug’s active compound. The brand name of a drug is developed so that the pharmaceutical company can effectively market it once it is released. While drugs that are new to market are protected by patents, these patents are temporary. Once they expire, then generic drug manufacturers are legally allowed to produce and sell identical drugs using the same active compound for much less.

Important Facts to Know about Generic Drugs

The FDA actively monitors the safety and effectiveness of generic medications on the market. In addition, the FDA requires generic drugs to deliver the same performance as their brand name counterparts, and the generic drug manufacturer is required to prove that its drug is the bioequivalent to the original product. If reports come through of an adverse reaction to a generic drug, the FDA investigates this just as it would for a brand name drug. Drug safety in terms of production and distribution is also monitored just as rigorously.

Research shows that the effectiveness of generic drugs is equal to that of brand name medications. Studies have shown again and again that generic drugs work just as well as brand name drugs. On their website, the FDA cites a recent study that evaluated the results of 38 published clinical trials comparing generic and brand name cardiovascular drugs, with no evidence that one was more effective than the other.

Cheaper does not translate to lower quality. Generic drugs have the same recommended use, dosage chart, side effects, risks, safety profile, and potency as the original brand name drug. In fact, when a generic drug product has been approved by the FDA, it has met high standards that have been established with regards to identity, strength, quality, purity, and potency, with minimal variability considered acceptable. The only reason they are so much less expensive than brand drugs is that the manufacturer does not need to recoup the huge expenses that go into developing and marketing a drug. This price differential is significant, as the average cost of a generic drug is between 80 to 85 percent lower than the brand name product.

While for most people the difference between generic and brand name drugs is negligible, in some cases there is a variance in how a person responds to the two drugs. Sometimes a generic drug will have a different coating or color dye to change the drug’s appearance, which can make the drug less tolerable and even increase the incidence of side effects in sensitive people. If you notice a difference after switching from a brand name to a generic drug, be sure to consult your physician.

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