Generic Medications vs. Brand Name Medications

July 15, 2015

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Health Care Consumerism_Healthy UNH
Photo Courtesy of Pixtawan

The Reasoning Behind Why Generic Drugs are Cheaper 

Your symptoms aren’t too severe that you need to go see a doctor so you head over to your local Rite-Aid/CVS to go pick up some Over the Counter (OTC) medicine.  When you get to the store to look for your cold medication you see all these different variations of medications.  There is a CVS brand medicine for Cold and Sinus and then there is the Advil brand for Cold and Sinus.  Now you’re confused on which to medication to choose! The CVS brand medication is cheaper than the Advil brand but Advil is a brand name you know that you can trust.  Both the medications advertise very similar treatment effects.  So which one do you choose?

Generic drugs are required to have the same dosage, form, strength, active ingredient, and route of administration as the brand name products. 

Manufactures of generic drug must prove to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the drug performs the same and its impact on the body are the same compared to the brand name drugs.  Quality standards of testing, manufacturing, and packaging must meet the exact expectations of generic drugs compared to brand name drugs. 

There is slight natural variability between generic and brand name products. But this variability is not medically significant.  The FDA allows a certain limit to how much variability is acceptable.  When a drug is approved, it has strict guidelines on identity, strength, purity, and potency.  When mass producing a drug, small variations in these factors could occur. 

The reason why generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs is because generic manufactures do not need to repeatedly perform the costly clinical trials.  They also do not need to pay for marketing, advertising and promotion. 

Just because the generic brand is cheaper it does not mean lower quality!

This 80-85% cost difference of generic drugs compared to brand name drugs saved about $158 billion in 2010.  

So if you are on a tight budget, a generic drug may be the better option for you.  Generic drugs are regulated by the FDA and their safety is highly monitored.  Now you have the information the choice is up to you!

Click here  for a PDF about generic drugs provided by the FDA.


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