Should I get a brand name or generic drug?

Many people have questions about brand name and generic drugs. When your healthcare provider prescribes a medication ask whether they are prescribing the brand or generic version of the drug. You should also check with your insurance company to see what they cover. Find out whether a generic, or non-brand name drug is available and appropriate for you. Generic drugs are a good way to save money, but for some patients, and for certain conditions, a brand-name drug may be needed.

Below are some common questions regarding brand name and generic drugs:

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug is a chemically equivalent and lower-cost version of a brand name drug. The active ingredient, dosage, strength, quality, route of administration and safety of a generic drug must be identical to the brand name drug but generics cost anywhere between 30%-80% less than their branded counterparts.

Are generic drugs as safe as brand name drugs?

Yes. To be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generic drugs must meet the exact same strict safety, efficacy, and quality standards as brand name drugs.

Are generic drugs as strong as brand name drugs?

Yes. Generic drugs and brand name drugs must be identical in quality, strength, purity and stability and a generic version of a drug is thoroughly tested to ensure its performance and ingredients meet the FDA’s standards for equivalency.

Does a generic drug work differently than the brand name version?

No. When you take a generic drug it will work in the same way and take the same amount of time as the brand name version.

How much less do generics cost than brand name drugs?

It varies. Generic drugs can cost anywhere between 30%-80% less than their brand name counterparts. If you use a generic drug instead of a brand name drug you will also have a reduced co-payment.

If generic drugs are the same as brand name drugs, why do generics cost less?

To understand why generics cost less than brand name drugs it’s helpful to understand a little bit about drug patents. Companies that develop new drugs are issued a 20-year patent which prohibits other companies from selling the drug during that 20-year period. Once the patent expires other drug manufacturers can produce and sell a generic version, as long as they are approved by the FDA. Unlike the company that came up with the brand name drug, generic manufacturers don’t have the same development costs (like years of expensive research and costly clinical trials). As generics become available, the competition keeps the price down.

If generic drugs are the same as brand name drugs, why do some generics look different from their brand name counterparts?

Generic drugs sometimes look different than the brand name versions because trademark laws prohibit generic manufacturers from making a generic that looks identical to the brand name version. All drugs have inactive ingredients like dyes and preservatives. While generic and brand name drugs must have the same active ingredients and meet the same standards for quality, safety and effectiveness, the color, shape, and inactive ingredients of generic drugs may be different.

How can I get the generic version of a drug?

You should talk to your healthcare provider and let them know that you would like them to write prescriptions for the most effective drugs at the best price and that you are interested in learning more about your options for generic drugs.