Generic drugs are medications with the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts.

The FDA requires generics to be “identical… to a brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.

Although generic drugs are chemically identical to their branded counterparts, they are typically sold at substantial discounts from the brand name retail price. According to the Congressional Budget Office, generic drugs save consumers an estimated $8 to $10 billion a year at retail pharmacies.”

Despite this regulatory safety requirement, some people still wonder if generics are as effective and safe as corresponding brand-name medications.

In most cases, generic medications are produced after the expiration of a patent on a brand-name medication. In some cases, the same manufacturer makes both a brand-name and generic version of the same medication, and half of all generic drugs are manufactured by the same facilities that make the brand name counterparts.

The major advantage of generic prescription drugs is price.

An FDA study has demonstrated that a person’s drug costs per day can be reduced by 14% to 16% when generic equivalent drugs are used instead of their brand-name counterparts.

For senior citizens, who are among the largest consumers of medication in the U.S., the savings may be substantial. Medicare beneficiaries who have Medicare plans that provide prescription drug coverage may realize another advantage in that most plans cover many generic prescription drugs in their formularies (i.e., list of covered prescription drugs), and assign low copayments, thus lowering the out-of-pocket cost the plan member pays for the medication.

You may want to discuss your current prescriptions with your physician to determine if generic equivalent medications could be prescribed without compromising your health or treatment.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns.