Generic Drugs and You
Americans are using more prescription drugs to prevent and manage health conditions than ever before, and those drugs are more expensive than ever before. Believe it or not, the amount we spend on drugs increases nearly 20 percent every year and is one of the main reasons the cost of health care is increasing. Fortunately, there are simple things we all can do to help keep health care affordable. When you need a prescription drug, ask your doctor if a generic equivalent is available.
Why Pay More?
- The generic drug is just as effective as the brand-name drug.
- Both medicines have the same active ingredients, the same strength, and the same dosage.
- Generic drug costs less than one-third the price of the brand-name drug.
- On average — $187 is the cost for a brand-name drug, as opposed to $21 for a generic.
The Hidden Cost of Brand-Name Drugs
One reason brand-name drugs are so much more expensive is that drug companies spend more than twice as much on marketing and advertising these drugs as on research and development. In fact, the nine largest pharmaceutical companies spend an average of 27 percent of their revenue on marketing, advertising, and administration, while only 11 percent goes toward research and development.
Answers About Generic Drugs
Using generic drugs may save you money. When your doctor writes a prescription, ask if a generic drug is available that is right for you. Your doctor may be able to substitute a generic drug for a brand medication. If you have questions or concerns about any medication you are currently taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Treatment decisions always rest solely with you and your doctor, but here are answers to some questions you might have about generic drugs.
What are generic drugs?
A generic drug is a version of a brand drug. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), compared to the brand drug, a generic:
- Is chemically the same
- Works the same in the body
- Is just as safe and effective
- Meets the same standards set by the FDA
- Often costs much less
There are two forms of generic substitution:
- A generic equivalent is made with the same active ingredient at the same dosage as the brand medication. You can expect the same results as with the brand counterpart.
- A generic alternative works like a brand drug and may be used to treat the same condition. But the chemicals in a generic alternative differ from the brand drug or its generic equivalent. So, overall results may be somewhat different.
Important: Your pharmacist can usually substitute a generic equivalent for its brand counterpart without a new prescription from your doctor. But only your doctor can determine whether a generic alternative is right for you and must prescribe the medication.
Why do generics typically cost less than brand medications?
When a brand drug first becomes available, the manufacturer usually receives a patent. This patent protects their investment in the new drug by keeping other companies from copying and producing it for several years. When a patent expires, other manufacturers can produce a generic version of the drug – and the cost goes down. On average, a generic drug costs 30 to 80 percent less than its brand counterpart.
Why do generic drugs look different than brand drugs
- Trademark laws require that a generic drug look different than a drug already on the market.
- A generic equivalent will be a different size, shape or color than the brand drug.
- Although the active ingredient in a generic equivalent is always the same as the brand counterpart, the generic may have different inactive ingredients, such as a coating or flavoring.
- Since more than one manufacturer may produce a generic equivalent for the same brand drug, generics can vary based on your pharmacy’s supplier.
Is there a generic equivalent available for the brand drug I’m taking?
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a generic version for the medication you take. More than half of all brand drugs prescribed in the United States today already have a generic equivalent, and many others soon will.
How can I learn more about generic drugs?
Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about generic drugs. Talk to your doctor to find out if a generic drug might be an option for you.