It is no surprise how expensive prescription medications are in the United States. In 2020, the United States spent 358.7 billion dollars on prescription drugs. While generic drugs account for a large percentage of the prescriptions being filled, brand-name drugs are responsible for the majority of the costs. Both generic and name-brand drugs are effective in combatting sickness, but it can be beneficial to understand the difference between the two.
What are generic drugs?
Generic medications are meant to be a copy of a particular name brand drug that contains the same active ingredients as the original brand. They are quite popular because they are priced about 85 percent less than the cost of brand-name prescriptions. Once the drug patent on the brand name drug expires, generics are allowed to compete.
To enter the market, the generic medication must go through the process of getting FDA approval. It must meet quality, safety, and effectiveness standards. Further, it must be proven that the generic drug is bioequivalent to the brand name version. Bioequivalence means that the generic drug works the same way and provides similar benefits.
The difference between generic and name-brand drugs
Generic medications are required to go through many tests that ensure that it is effective before gaining FDA approval. It is required to have the same active ingredients and provide the same benefits as the brand name version.
However, there are still a few differences. Generic and brand-name medications do not usually look the same. Generic medications may have different inactive ingredients (fillers, binder, flavors, etc.) that change the drug visually but do not affect the way the medicine works.
There are plenty of people and some doctors that have concerns with choosing generic prescriptions over brand names. These concerns can include:
- Worsening of symptoms
- Side effects
- Adverse reactions
Is there a better option?
Generic medications are usually more popular because they are the least expensive option. The low cost of generic meds has actually been shown to improve health outcomes because people are more likely to fill and take their prescriptions when they are prescribed generics. Those that do not have insurance especially benefit from generic drugs.
However, in some cases, there is not always a generic available for every brand name drug. And even if there is, some individuals may need to continue using brand-name medications. This could be due to a lack of response to generic drugs, or an allergy present in the individual. Additionally, some doctors do not feel comfortable switching medications with a narrow therapeutic index. This means that there is a smaller window between the benefits of the drug and the harmful effects.
Essentially, both generic and brand name medications need to prove that they are safe and effective enough for FDA approval. While generic medications are the least expensive option of the two, the doctor may not always choose to switch the brand name prescription for a generic one. Ultimately, it is up to the patient and the doctor to decide what version of the medication they want to take.
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