Is generic medicine right for you?

Do you trust only known brands to treat your health? If so, there may be a few things you should consider. When it comes to your medicine, a generic version may be just as effective at treating your condition as a brand-name version. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic versions of medicine offer the same quality and performance as brand name but cost on average 80-85% less. No wonder the majority of medicine being filled today is generic!1

While you may be enticed to choose a brand-name medicine over a generic version, you may reconsider once you look at some of the benefits of switching to generic. 

Same active ingredients 

Generic medicine has the same active ingredients as a brand name and is identical in dosage, strength and safety. The only difference is the inactive ingredients, such as flavoring or preservatives. This is why generics look different from brand names. It’s just the outside packaging that’s different; not the ingredients inside that work to treat your condition. 

Before a generic medicine can be sold, the generic manufacturer must prove to the FDA that the generic is the same, or bioequivalent, as the brand-name medicine. This requires passing rigorous tests and inspections from the FDA to ensure the generic version is the same high quality as the brand name. So statements that generic medicine is made in subpar facilities are simply not correct. In fact, many generics are produced in the same facilities as brand names.

Expensive does not mean better

So you ask, “How can the generic be that much cheaper?” There’s a good reason for this. When developing a new medicine, there’s a lot of costs that go into research and development—on average about 2 billion dollars. Not only are there research and development costs, brand-name manufacturers must also pay for clinical trials to make sure the medicine is safe and effective to use on patients. Because of all this upfront investment, the FDA gives the original manufacturer a few years of exclusive rights when the medicine is first out in the market. This means the original manufacturer is the only one who can sell the new medicine, which sometimes translates to very high costs. 

Fortunately, once the exclusivity is over, generic manufacturers are able to create the same medicine for less. Unlike brand-name manufacturers, generic manufacturers don’t need to spend money on research and development—not to mention marketing—because that was all done for them. They basically take the recipe the brand-name manufacturer has developed and use that to create their own generic version. 

A potential for huge savings  

In most cases, this adds up to huge savings for patients without sacrificing quality. According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), generic medicine saves Americans billions of dollars each year.2 Nearly 90% of prescriptions filled are now generic, from treating back pain to lowering cholesterol. 

By switching to generic, most patients can reduce their prescription costs by about half. Here are some examples of how much you could save per day by switching to generic. Note that these are hypothetical examples and may not reflect real-world savings:    

One final tip

Always talk to your doctor about the best course of your treatment. Some medicines don’t have a generic version but your doctor or pharmacist can see if there are alternatives you can try. You may find the savings are well worth the change.