By Virginia Aparicio
Extension Educator – Health & Human Sciences
Purdue Extension Elkhart County
ELKHART — Many of us buy generic products to save money. On average, generic drugs cost about 85% less than brand-name drugs. However, when people think of knock-offs, they may question the quality or performance of a product. With generic medications, you don’t need to.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a generic medicine uses the same active ingredients (part of any drug that produces the intended effects) and works in the same way as its brand-name version when it comes to quality, dosage, strength and how you administer the medication.
Like brand-name drugs, generics go through a rigorous review process to receive FDA approval. The FDA ensures a generic medication provides the same clinical benefit and is as safe and effective as the brand-name medication that it duplicates. The FDA tests to make sure that any different ingredients used in the generic drug are safe and will only approve the drug if it meets all of the safety requirements.
After the medication is approved, the FDA will routinely inspect the manufacturing plant where the drug is made and monitor the drug for any safety concerns. If people taking a generic have bad reactions or side effects, the FDA will investigate and the manufacturer may have to change how it makes the drug or how it’s used.
Generic drugs may have a different shape, color, packaging, flavoring or inactive ingredients than the brand-name drugs. These differences are due to U.S. trademark laws and do not mean a generic drug is any less effective than a brand-name drug.
You may be wondering why brand-name drugs cost more than generics. One reason is manufacturers don’t have to repeat costly animal and clinical studies for generic medicines. Brand-name medicines have already done the research and demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of the medication. That cost is usually shifted onto the consumer.
Another reason is due to patents that allow manufacturers to sell a developed drug exclusively until the patent expires. After the patent expires, other companies are allowed to make a generic version. While a brand-name drug is only sold by one manufacturer, several companies will usually sell the same generic drug increasing competition among generics and lowering the price for consumers.
In some cases, you may need to choose a brand-name drug over a generic. If there is no generic version available you may need choose a brand-name or alternative treatment. Talk to your doctor and they may recommend a cost saving program or offer you a cheaper alternative. For medicines known as “narrow therapeutic index drugs,” switching between generic and brand-name versions can be risky. Very rarely, people respond poorly when they switch to a generic. Check with your doctor if you suspect any side effects after switching to a generic.
Your insurance company will often prefer that you use a generic over a brand-name medication. To find out whether there’s a generic version of your drug available, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.