Saving Money on Drugs

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Fact: Generic drugs can be identical to their more expensive, brand name alternatives… so why waste the extra cash? For many, a belief that “brand name” means “better” persists. But is that true? What, exactly, are we paying for?

According to the FDA’s Frequently Asked Questions About Generic Drugs, a generic drug is defined as:

A generic drug is a copy that is the same as a brand-name drug in dosage, safety, strength, how it is taken, quality, performance and intended use.

In fact, the FDA even goes on to explain how production facilities between brand name and generic drugs must meet the same standards… so there really is no difference between the two. And if you’re wonder why you can’t get a generic version of every drug on the market, the reason is simple: copyright. The FDA generally allows brand name pharmaceutical manufactures to maintain copyrights on their medications for 20 years. After that, any company that can meet the same quality in product and manufacturing, can produce the same medication.

So why do brand names cost more? Advertising! According to IMS Health, a company that tracks global pharmaceutical markets, pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $5 billion in advertising to consumers in 2006. So every time you buy a brand name product, you’re paying for the brand name advertising. That doesn’t really make sense when you can get the exact same product for substantially less.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Mary Benedict

    This is not necessarily true. I have taken generic prescription drugs that are weaker than their name brand counterparts and wondered how that could be. My doctor explained that while the amount of the drug is the same, the materials mixed with the drugs differ, and your body processes the drugs differently. As for over the counter generics, forget it. I once asked someone to buy me a name brand cough medicine when I was sick. He wanted to save me some money so he bought a generic brand. It barely helped my cough at all. I got the name brand, and “that” helped my cough. So I think this “generic is the same as name brands” when it comes to drugs is an urban myth. When it comes to generics, like everything else, buyer beware.