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Answers to Questions about Generics

A Brand-Name drug is marketed under a specific trade name by a pharmaceutical manufacturer. In most cases, Brand-Name drugs are still under patent protection, meaning the manufacturer is the sole source for the product. A generic drug is made with the same active ingredients in the same dosage form as a brand name drug. The generic drug is therapeutically equivalent to the brand name drug but is sold under its chemical or "generic" name.

A generic drug contains the same active ingredients in the same dosage form as a brand name drug. The strength and purity of generic medications are strictly regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA requires all generic manufacturers to demonstrate that a generic drug will have the same medical effect as its Brand-Name equivalent by measuring the rate and extent of drug absorption. The generic drug should treat your illness or condition with the same effectiveness and safety as its brand name equivalent. Generics have to meet the same rigorous FDA requirements as Brand-Name drugs.

Since 1970, the FDA has approved almost 9,000 generic drug products as therapeutically equivalent to Brand-Name products. These generics have been used billions of times by millions of patients, demonstrating again that Brand-Name and generic name drugs have the same effect in the body.

In most cases, yes. The cost of researching, developing and marketing a new drug- including the money spent advertising the product- are factored into the price of the branded drug. Generic manufacturers spend considerably less on development and promotion, and therefore can afford to sell their product for less money. Because generic drugs provide greater value, they usually require a smaller pharmacy benefit copayment than branded products.

No, the quality is the same. Both have to meet the same rigorous FDA requirements.

Some are manufactured by the same pharmaceutical companies that make brand drugs; others are produced by pharmaceutical companies specializing in the manufacturing of generics. All prescription drug manufacturers must meet rigid FDA standards.

No. Generics are available for many drugs, but not for the newest drugs approved by the FDA. New drugs are granted an exclusive patent for a 17-year period. Once the patent expires, any pharmaceutical company can manufacture a generic version, with FDA approval. In a very few instances, a Brand-Name drug may be too technically difficult, or too unique, for a generic version to be produced.

Ask your doctor if one is available. There may be times when your doctor believes a brand name medication is the only one appropriate for your condition. However, if your doctor does approve a generic medication, your pharmacist can dispense it at your request.