When you go to the doctor, they give you medication for a brand-name drug. You take the prescription to the pharmacy, and they tell you there is a generic drug available. In many situations, the generic option may be better. But that’s not always the case.
Do generic drugs have the same effects as brand-name drugs?
When some people hear the word generic, they think of cereals that don’t taste good or get soggy too quickly. They usually aren’t as good as the real thing and are thought of as copies. Generic drugs are different. The same way that brand-name drugs work is how generics are made. They share the same active ingredient as brand-name drugs and are the same in the following ways:
- Administrative route
For instance, an amphetamine salt combo is the generic version of the drug Adderall, which treats ADD/ADHD. These two prescription drugs come in the same strengths, are given in the same amounts, and have the same directions for bringing them. A similar is true for metformin, the generic version of the diabetes drug Glucophage.
Are generic drugs less effective?
No, generic drugs work just as well as name-brand drugs. The FDA says that drug companies must show that generic versions of brand-name drugs can be used in place of brand-name drugs and offer the same benefits. In other words, you can often switch from a brand-name drug to a generic drug and get the same effect, but you can’t do that with generic Frosted Flakes.
Why do drugs with brand names cost more than drugs with generic names?
First, the people who make brand-name drugs have to do tests called clinical trials to show that their drug is safe and does what it’s supposed to. These tests cost a lot, and some are passed to the consumer. Second, one company only sells brand-name drugs, but more than one company usually sells the same generic drug. This creates competition in the market and lowers prices for consumers.
How much less expensive are drugs with generic names?
Most of the time, generic drugs cost between 80% and 85% less than the same brand-name drug. One study says that from 2007 to 2016, generic drugs protected the U.S. healthcare system by $1.67 trillion.
How can I tell the difference?
You can calm down if you’re worried about getting the wrong prescription. It’s not hard to tell the difference between a generic drug and a brand-name drug. Due to trademark laws, brand-name and generic drugs can’t look the same. In many cases, like with omeprazole, the name of the pharmaceutical version will be the same as the name of the active ingredient.
The generic and brand-name versions may differ in the:
- Inactive ingredients
But these distinctions don’t mean that a generic drug works less well or in a different way than a brand-name drug.
Are generic medications safe?
Yes. Before they are approved, generic drugs are highly regulated and undergo a strict review process. The FDA tests them to ensure they have the same benefits as brand-name drugs and that any ingredients utilized in the generic drug are safe.
They will also check how strong the drug’s container is, how long an unopened drug will last before it starts to break down, and if the drug’s maker can make the drug consistently and correctly. The FDA won’t let the drug on the market unless it meets all these safety requirements.
Once the drug is approved, the FDA will regularly check the plant where it is made and keep an eye on it for any safety problems. If people taking a generic have negative reactions or side effects, the FDA will look into it, and the manufacturer may be required to change how the drug is made or used.
When should I pick a drug with a brand name over one with a generic name?
When deciding which version of a drug to take, a generic drug may seem like the obvious choice. After all, it costs less and does the same thing. But there are times when it’s better to stick with a brand-name drug or use it instead of a generic one:
- When there isn’t a generic version, there is no generic version of some medicines, like Premarin. We don’t know what’s in it, so there may never be a generic. Even if there is no generic version of the brand you take, talk to your doctor if you can’t pay for it. They might suggest ways to save money or give you a cheaper alternative.
- Suppose you take a drug with a narrow therapeutic index. These are drugs where even small changes in the dose or amount of medicine in the blood can cause serious side effects. One study established that patients who switched from brand-name antiepileptic drugs to generic ones had more side effects and had to go to the doctor more often, which cost more money. You’ll find blood thinners, lithium, and thyroid drugs in this group of drugs. If your doctor gives you a certain brand with these medicines, you should stay with that brand. And if they tell you to take the generic, you should do that. It can be dangerous to switch between versions.
- When you do not do as well on the generic, people rarely have bad reactions when they switch to a generic. For example, they may take it differently because of how the tablet is made. The same study found that some people’s symptoms worsened when they switched from the depression drug Celexa to the generic citalopram. Speak to your physician if you think you might have any side effects after switching to a generic.
How can I convince my insurance to cover a brand-name prescription instead of a generic one?
Most of the time, your insurance company would rather you take a generic drug than one with a brand name. You can choose the brand-name drug under some plans. You’ll have to pay more.
For instance, if you need a Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan and select the brand-name drug, you will probably have to pay the copay for the prescription product plus the price difference between the brand-name drug and the generic drug.
In other cases, you may already have to go through step therapy when your insurance company pays for the brand-name drug. Most of the time, you’ll have to try cheaper options before your insurance covers the brand name.
If you try this other medicine and your insurance company still won’t cover them, you can ask your doctor to help you appeal or see if your doctor can give you a different drug that doesn’t require step therapy.
You can also ask your doctor to start writing to the insurance company and ask that the brand-name drug be decided to add to the company’s favored drug list, which includes drugs with the best coverage. Peer-reviewed studies must show that the drug works before your doctor can prescribe it to you. Lastly, check if the drug’s manufacturer makes a copy card. People with private insurance can save money on brand-name drugs with these cards. If you don’t have health coverage, find out if the drug has a program to help people who can’t pay for it. People who meet specific criteria can get help from these programs to pay less for their medications.