What’s the Difference Between Generic and Brand-Name Medications?

You've no doubt gone to your pharmacy at some point to fill a prescription and been asked if you’d like a generic version of a name brand drug. 

Some patients may view generic drugs with a dose of skepticism, wondering if generic prescriptions are as good and as effective as the name brand version. However, the science is firm on that question - generic drugs are just as effective as name brands.

Generics vs. Brand Name Medications

According to the Federal Drug Administration, “A generic medicine works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version. A generic medicine is the same as a brand-name medicine in dosage, safety, effectiveness, strength, stability, and quality, as well as in the way it is taken and should be used.” 

“A generic drug is equivalent to the brand name drug and contains the same active ingredients as the original product,” said Ken Hammond, CEO and in-house pharmacist for Paramount RX. “Generic drugs must be approved by the FDA and can be significantly less expensive.” 

Generic drugs must be bioequivalent to the brand version and meet all labeling, performance, and quality guidelines, though they could contain different inert or inactive fillers. These inert fillers are harmless and are added to 99% of medications and help the drug in terms of its appearance, consistency, color, flavor, or other physical properties. The FDA Generic Drugs Program conducts regular tests to make sure generic medicines meet the same requirements as name brand drugs. 

“Brand and generic drugs are equally effective and will have the same therapeutic effect,” Hammond said. “For a few drugs where blood levels are important (thyroid replacement drugs), it is best to stay with the same manufacturer whether it is brand or generic.”

How Do Medications Become Generic?

Not every drug has a generic option right away. Generic drugs, in general, are available after the patent on the original brand drug expires, which is typically 20 years from the date of filing. As the patent runs out, other manufacturers can apply for permission to make and sell the generic versions. 

“It can take many years of research and development before a brand drug is approved for the marketplace. As a result, its exclusivity in the marketplace could be much less than 20 years,” Hammond said. 

Generic drugs are also much less expensive than their brand name counterparts. This is because generic drug manufacturers didn’t have to incur all the expenses to develop and test the medication and do not have to repeat the clinical studies that are required of the brand-name medicines to demonstrate safety and effectiveness. 

In addition, multiple applications for generic drugs are often approved to market a single product, which creates more competition, especially when multiple manufacturers are making generic versions. More competition means lower prices. 

But just because a medication is generic doesn’t mean it’s less quality than the original. In fact, the FDA estimates that 50% of generic drug production is by brand-name companies. 

Choosing Between Generic and Brand-Name Medications

Patients should discuss options with their physician or local pharmacist if torn between choosing between generic drugs or name-brand drugs. For more information, you can also visit the FDA Generic Drugs Program web page or call 1-888-INFO-FDA. 

Whether you choose generic or name brand, Community Cares Rx can save you money on your medications. Our goal is to help you pay the lowest price for your medications. Saving money is as easy as downloading your free prescription discount card for your family today. Have questions? Contact us and we’ll get you the information you need. 



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