Brand Name Vs. Generic Arthritis Pain Relievers

Health Professional

Should I take brand name or generic medication for my osteoarthritis symptoms?

Medications in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If a drug company says that its drug has a certain amount of medication in it, then the FDA is supposed to ensure that it truly does. Supplements are very different. The FDA does not regulate the supplement industry in the same way as it does the drug industry. As a result, many supplements may say they contain one thing, but in fact contain something else. Study after study suggests that some supplements do not have the active ingredients, or the quantities of active ingredients, that they say they do on their labels. For this reason, it is important that you do your homework before buying any supplements. Only buy from reputable companies and look on independent websites such as that look objectively at the different companies and supplements to provide consumers with information about what they are actually buying if they purchase the supplement.

With drugs, the FDA is the consumer's watchdog. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol. As such, it should not matter if you purchase over-the-counter Tylenol or the generic acetaminophen sitting next to it in the drug store. The only difference should be that the generic acetaminophen is cheaper than the brand name Tylenol. The same ought to be true for non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil and Motrin. The active ingredient in both of these is ibuprofen. Taking generic ibuprofen should, in theory, be as effective and safe as taking the trade names. When patients ask me if I think they should buy the trade name or the generic, I tell them to look for the trade name, find the active ingredient and then consider getting the same dosage of the generic one first. If they don't respond to the generic, then I suggest they possibly consider trying the trade name.

For some reason, every once in a while I have a patient who does not respond to the generic but does respond to the trade name. Having said the above, remember to never start any new medication without talking to your doctor first. Only your doctor can tell you if a drug is right for you. Remember that just because a drug is available without a prescription doesn't mean that taking it doesn't have risks, and some of those risks may potentially be gravely serious and even sometimes lead to death. Again, please talk to your doctor before starting any new medication.

Also please remember that most pain medications primarily only treat the symptom, and not the cause. Addressing the biomechanics that contribute to osteoarthritis is needed for a lasting solution to the problem. This is discussed in great detail in many of my other blogs on this site. I hope you have found this blog helpful. I wish you the best of health because with good health, all things are possible.