Generic and Brand Name Drugs- Is there a difference?
by Shannon Hsu
Generic versus brand name drugs. Is one better than the other? People might be confused or even stressed when choosing which medicine to buy because there’s a lot of misconceptions about it. Some people think that because a drug is generic and cheaper than the brand name version, it doesn’t work as well, it’s not as safe to use, or the quality is not as good. On the other hand, because brand name drugs are more expensive, they have to be better in every way, right?
Well, that isn’t really true. Drugs generally have a common brand name and a generic name. For example, both Advil and Motrin are branded versions of ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat fevers, pain, and inflammation. The active pharmaceutical ingredients, or APIs, for both brand name and generic versions are exactly the same, so they essentially work the same. The FDA even requires that the generic medicine’s label to be the same as the brand-name medicine’s label. The differences are in the excipients, or inactive ingredients that affect appearance, taste, and fillers to make up the drug, but these do not affect how the drug works. Generic drugs still follow the same strict standards in manufacturing as the brand name drugs to ensure safety, effectiveness, and overall quality. They are pharmaceutically equivalent, meaning they have the same strength, dosage, form, and mode of administration. They are also bioequivalent, meaning they have the same effect on your body in the same amount of time.
Of course, if you are allergic to certain ingredients or have questions about which medication to take, you should always ask your doctor or pharmacist. After all, they know about your specific conditions the best.
The reason why brand name drugs are more expensive is because when they are first discovered, the company files a patent on that drug, which means that they are the only ones allowed to make, market, and sell that drug. Since the drug is brand new, the company needs to spend a lot of time and money to research and carefully conduct clinical trials to improve the drug’s safety and effectiveness. After the patent expires, which can be up to 20 years, then other companies can also start making the same drug. Since the drug has already been in the market for a while, other companies don’t have to start from scratch to manufacture it, meaning they also don’t have to do all the tests and research for it. Because normally several companies are approved to make the generic drug, competition in the marketplace also helps to make the cost a lot cheaper, usually about 85% less than the brand name version!
Helping people be more informed in their decisions can help save a lot of money. According to the IMS Health Institute, generic drugs saved the U.S. healthcare system $1.67 trillion from 2007 to 2016. In the long run, this can significantly help lower healthcare cost and make it affordable for everyone.
So next time you go out to buy your drugs, you know you can save yourself some money and safely go for the generic drug instead.