It’s no secret that generic drugs are cheaper than their name-brand equivalents — 71 percent cheaper on average. But that steep discount has a lot of people concerned. Can a generic drug that’s so much cheaper than its brand-name equivalent really be just as safe and effective? Yes, it can.
FDA standards require generic drugs to contain the same active ingredients and work the same way that brand-name equivalents do. Generic drugs are cheaper not because they’re manufactured in sub-par facilities or with lower-quality ingredients, but because drug manufacturers don’t have to worry about recouping initial research and development costs for these drugs. For this reason, drug manufacturers are able to charge far less for generic drugs than they must for brand-name equivalents.
What Are Generic Drugs?
Generic drugs are manufactured using the same active ingredients, in the same dosages, as their brand-name equivalents. Generic are intended to be used in the same way as brand-name drugs, and create the same effects in the body as their more expensive counterparts. They’re just as safe as brand-name drugs, with the same side effects, risks, potency, and efficacy. They’re also administered in the same way as their brand-name counterparts — for example, the generic of a brand-name liquid drug will still be administered as a liquid, and the generic of a brand-name pill will also be administered as a pill.
This means that you can confidently use generic drugs, secure in the knowledge that they will be just as safe and effective as the brand-name ones. Drug manufacturers must prove that generic drugs are bioequivalent to brand-name drugs, meaning that they work in the body in the same way and are just as effective as the brand-name drugs they are meant to imitate.
While generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name equivalents, and have the same effects as their brand-name counterparts, there are some differences. Generic drugs may be made with different inactive ingredients, like preservatives or flavorings. They may also be a different color or shape from their brand-name counterparts, and come in a slightly different package.
Why Are Generic Drugs Cheaper?
Generic drugs are substantially cheaper than their brand-name counterparts because drug manufacturers are able to produce and market them without incurring the high costs of developing a new drug from scratch. When a drug manufacturer produces a new drug, they face steep costs for research, development, testing, marketing, and production. That’s why brand-name drugs are so expensive. The manufacturers of new brand-name drugs need to make back their money before a new drug can become profitable.
You may also notice that some drugs aren’t available as generics. Advair, for example, is not yet available as a generic in the United States, while the popular cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor is. That’s because drug manufacturers obtain patents for their newly-developed drugs, allowing them exclusive rights to manufacture and market those drugs for a period of time, usually 20 years. Drug patents allow drug manufacturers a chance to profit from developing new drugs. Once the patent on a drug expires, however, other drug manufacturers are free to produce their own generic equivalents of that drug. Because these manufacturers don’t have to deal with research and development costs, they are able to charge less for their generic versions of popular brand name drugs and still turn a profit.
Generic drugs are popular — as many as 80 percent of prescriptions filled in the United States are filled with prescription drugs. Despite the popularity of generic drugs, myths about their safety and efficacy abound. Many people are concerned that generic drugs aren’t as safe as their brand-name equivalents. However, all drugs must be proven to be safe before they can be marketed.
Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts, affect the body in the same way, and must deliver the same amount of active ingredients to the bloodstream. Though it’s true that some drugs have been found to be dangerous after being released, these dangers usually come to light while the drug is still under patent protection. If a drug has been on the market long enough for its original patent to expire, it’s unlikely that it will be found to carry unforeseen risks.
Another prevalent myth regarding generic drugs is that they are manufactured in sub-par facilities. In fact, about half of generic drugs are manufactured in the same facilities that produce brand-name drugs, and even manufacturers that exclusively sell generics must produce them in FDA-approved facilities. Generic drugs sold in Canadian pharmacies must meet the requirements of Canadian authorities, and these drugs have been found to contain the same active ingredients in the same amount as their American equivalents.
If you’re looking for a way to save money on prescription drugs but have been afraid to purchase generics, fear not. They are exactly the same as their brand-name equivalents in all the ways that count. So don’t throw money away on brand-name drugs when there is a generic equivalent available. Your bank account will thank you.