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Generic vs. Brand Name Drugs

How are generic drugs and brand name drugs different?

When it comes to generic vs. brand name drugs, the main difference is name and appearance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires generic drugs to have the same active ingredient, strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the brand name drug. They are also developed and approved according to the same standards as brand name drugs.

Why are brand name drugs more expensive?

Brand name drug makers have to cover their research, testing, and promotion costs. Some of those costs are passed on to you, and cost is the main reason why brand name drugs are more expensive than generic drugs.

Patents allow brand name drugs to be sold exclusively for a limited time. When the patent expires other companies are allowed to make a generic version of the brand name drug. Since the brand name drug company has already done most of the work, generic medications are less expensive.

Are generic medications safe?

Generic drugs are tested using the same methods as brand name drugs, and require approval from the FDA.

The generic version of a brand name drug must meet the following criteria:

  • Contain the same active ingredients
  • Be taken by the patient in the same manner
  • Have the same strength and dosage
  • Be identical in quality

When I fill a prescription, am I receiving a generic or a brand name drug?

Generic versions of most brand name drugs are available, and allow you to save money year-over-year. Your doctor and pharmacist can tell you if the medication you’re taking is generic vs. brand name.

Should I take generic medications?

Generic drugs are manufactured to be just as effective as brand name drugs and less expensive. However, only your doctor can tell you what’s right for you. Generic versions aren’t available for all medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if generic medications are available for your prescription. If a less expensive version is available, you could end up saving money.

How do generic drugs affect my health care plan?

Some health insurance plans are designed to recommend opportunities to save money, including lowering costs with generic drugs. Some plans require that you use a generic medication instead of the more expensive brand name drug.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to understand your options. For details about your health plan coverage, review your plan documents or call the number on your plan ID card.


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This information is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing and care recommendations.

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