Generic vs. Brand Name - Knowing the Facts

Stephanie Health Guide

    I have long been a supporter of generic medications. They are not only less expensive for me but they are less expensive for insurance companies. I continue to believe this and believe that everyone should try generic medications first but recently I’ve heard more about generic medications which lead me to research the differences between generic and brand name medications. I’ve also come to realize that when the generic doesn’t work as well it might not be in the taker’s head.


    There is a lot of misinformation on the web about generic “equivalents.” One site said that the generic medications only have to be within 20% of the brand name. This was shocking but it’s not necessarily true according to the FDA website. What the FDA website does say about the generic drugs is summarized in the following:

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    1)      Once a drug goes out of patent generic manufacturers can make equivalents.

    2)      Some variability is allowed in purity, size, strength and potency are allowed. Variability is also allowed for different batches of brand name drugs.

    3) Each drug is allowed a different variance based on factors about that medication.

    4)      A generic equivalent must be the same route of ingestion (e.g. pill, IV, etc.), strength and active ingredient as the brand name.

    5)      The generics must be tested for bioequivalence meaning that they must show that they lead to similar blood levels of the brand name drug before they are approved.

    6)      The generics are NOT tested for effect because if they can prove that they have similar blood levels then they are assumed to be as effective.

    7)      Generic manufacturing sites are subject to the same standards as the brand name manufacturing sites.


    Why should you consider generics?

    1)      Generic drugs are on average more than 80% less than brand name drugs.

    2)      Research has shown that generic drugs are as effective as brand name drugs.


    Why and when should you consider brand name?

    1)      If you try a generic drug and you have issues with it, it may be that you are very sensitive to the inactive ingredients or that in your case you are sensitive to the allowed variability. Before paying the cost of brand name though you may want to shop around and see if different pharmacies stock different generic equivalents. If not, you may want to consider trying the brand name.

    2)      Some brand name medications are still under patent and don’t have a generic equivalent. Be careful though, just because a medication is new doesn’t mean it’s going to be better for you. If what you are currently taking is working don’t immediately jump to the newest thing you hear about or the newest sample your doctor has available in her office.


    Other things to consider:

    1)      You may need a brand name medication for one of your medications. This doesn’t mean you will need them for all.

    2)      Price compare – how much of a difference is there between the generic and brand name medication? My sister recently found that she was not having a good response to her generic medication and needed a higher dosage which was giving her more side effects. When she switched back to brand name she needed to decrease her dosage because it then was too effective. She’s now on a lower dosage of the brand name medication than the generic which helps balance out the cost difference.

  • 3)      Your insurance company isn’t trying to get you to settle for a lower cost alternative. It is certainly better for everyone (well maybe not the brand name manufacturers) if we can choose more generics but in the long run the best treatment taking everything into account will be the least costly solution. You don’t want a short term lower cost only to pay for it later but at the same time you don’t want to be paying for more than you should.

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    4)      The brand name drug manufacturers aren’t charging you outrageous prices just to make tons of money. It costs a lot of money to bring a new medication to market but more on that in my next post…….



Published On: November 18, 2010