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Medicine Chest: Generic Medications -- Why Bother?

What are they?
A generic drug is a former brand-name drug whose patent has expired. When a drug is first developed, its manufacturer is given patent protection and the right to use a brand name for marketing. When the patent expires, other companies can sell the equivalent drug under the chemical (generic) name.

Do they work?
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) assures that the generic version contains the same active ingredient, has the same strength and dosage, and has the same action in your body (?bio-equivalence?) as the brand name.

Are they safe?
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) establishes strict manufacturing standards and assures drug purity and quality, as well as safety and efficacy.

Who makes them?
There are many manufacturers; generic drug industry sales exceed $11 billion annually. In addition, several major drug companies make generic versions of their own brand-name drug once the patent has expired.

Are there differences?
No difference is permitted in the active ingredient, the strength or the dosage. There may be differences in the inactive ingredients (binder); the shape and color of the pill are usually different than the brand name.

Why do they cost less?
It is less expensive to develop a generic version of an established drug than it is to develop an entirely new drug from among the many attempts that fail. Moreover, generic drug companies spend very little on advertising since the drugs are already very well known. Mostly, aggressive price competition among several manufacturers produces lower costs once the original developer no longer ?owns the market?.

Why bother?
There are only two reasons, the first of which is the opportunity to obtain FDA-assured quality drugs at a much lower price (often less than half). High quality and low cost add up to real value.

The second is safety. Generic drugs, on the market (under the brand name) during years of patent protection, have been taken by millions of patients, and have not been removed from the market. Newer brand-name drugs, as reported in your newspaper, are not infrequently recalled because of adverse reactions including death. These side-effects do not show up in the several thousands of patients taking the drug during clinical trials but become obvious when prescribed for millions of patients after release.)

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Medicine Chest: Generic Medications -- Why Bother?

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