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Generic drugs can cost up to 80% less in comparison to their "brand name" competitors. As a result, that sharp contrast in price makes many people wonder if there is a difference. It's natural to question if there is a difference in quality, effectiveness and manufacturing. Hopefully this article will help you learn the difference between myths and realities - and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year!
What is a generic drug?
A generic drug is the exact chemical equivalent of brand name drugs. It must have the exact the exact same active ingredients of its brand name counterpart. And it must be as safe and effective as the brand name drug. This is federal law, sanctioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Are generic drugs safe?
Yes. All drugs - generic and brand name - must meet the same standards required by the FDA for safety, quality and effectiveness.
Are generic drugs as strong as brand names?
Yes. The FDA requires generic drugs to have the same ingredients, strength, purity and stability as brand-name versions. Generic drugs are thoroughly tested to make sure their performance and ingredients meet the FDA's standards for equivalency.
Then, why are generic drugs cheaper?
Generics are cheaper because the companies that manufacture them did not have to shoulder the invest costs to develop the original, patented drug. Nor do generic manufacturers bear the costs of marketing and advertising costs to launch the drugs into the marketplace. That is why brand name drugs cost more.
So why do brand-name drugs cost so much more?
The original manufacturer might invest anywhere from $500,000,000 to a billion dollars to bring a drug to market. This cost includes the money it takes to perform research, develop the drug, finance clinical trials testing, gain FDA approval, and then market and promote the drug once it has been approved. As the developer and "innovator" the original company also bears the costs to secure the patent for the drug. Once obtained, the company can hold the patent for 10-20 years. During that time, the original company maintains exclusive rights to sell the drug. This enables the company to recoup their investment. That is why when a drug is first made available - it is often very expensive to purchase.
How do generic manufacturers get to make drugs?
Companies begin to apply to the FDA to get permission to make a generic version as the patent held by the original manufacturer nears expiration. Then, as multiple companies get permission to manufacture the drug - competition starts. That's why over time, the prices of the drug get lower and lower.
Why do some generics look different than the brand name version?
The original manufacturer might also trademark certain things such as the color, flavor or inactive ingredients, in addition to holding the original patent. So that is why a generic version might be a different color or leave a different aftertaste. The important thing to remember is that these are inactive ingredients. The active ingredients are the same as the brand-name version of the drug, and the generic drug must work as fast and effectively as the brand-name drug in order to be sold on the market in the United States.
So is cost the only "bottom line" difference?
Yes. You can feel safe in taking a generic drug. And you will save lots
of money by doing so. When your doctor prescribes a medication - always discuss getting a prescription for a generic drug version. You'll save tons of money - and your healthcare needs will be covered. Stay healthy! And save money in the process!
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