Answers to Four Common Questions about Generic Medications
|Generic medications save consumers 80% to 85%.|
- Do generic drugs really save me money?
- Are generic drugs a safe substitute for name brand drugs? Are generic medications the same quality?
- Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?
- How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug?
- What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?
1. Do generic medications really save me money?Oh, yes! The average amount saved by U.S. consumers monthly by purchasing a generic medicine rather than a brand name drug with their prescription is $3 billion every week, according to a September 2011 economic analysis of generic drug use by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA). That’s $158 billion that Americans save each year with generic drugs!
How much you save personally from switching to generic drugs will depend on how many drugs you use and whether the brand name prescriptions you use are available in generic form. But the savings can be substantial; Generic medications are up to 90 percent less expensive than their name-brand prescription equivalents, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reports that on average, the generic drug will cost you 80-85 percent less than the brand name product.
2. Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?Most pharmaceutical companies get a patent for the drugs that they develop. Until that patent expires, their drug will only be available legally (i.e., without patent infringement) under their own manufacturing: their own brand name. This is why just half of the brand-name drugs on the market are currently available in generic form.
While this may seem unfair from our perspective as consumers, the cost of research, development, and patent approval are enormous for any new drug entering the U.S. market. The patent protection allows the drug manufacturer to recoup its investment before any other company can manufacture or distribute the drug as a generic equivalent to the original name-branded drug.
This also explains why a generic drug can be sold for so much less; the manufacturer of the generic drug only pays for the cost of making the drug, not the cost of research and FDA approvals.
3. How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug prescriptions?In most cases, you must simply ask your pharmacist if the drug you’ve been prescribed has a generic equivalent. If it’s made in generic form, the pharmacy usually carries it or can order it for you.
Some pharmacists will ask if you want the generic drug instead, but this is not always the case. So, be sure to ask!
4. What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?
Insurance companies benefit from the savings of generic drugs just as much or even more so than we do and often get involved in advocacy for more generic drug availability, especially now that so much research, data, and evidence support the facts that generic medications are cheaper and as reliable as name brand drugs.
|Insurance companies advocate for generic drug availability.|
Summary: Generic Drugs Are Both Safe and Good Economics!Most data, not just government sourced, supports the facts; you can safely control health costs for you and your family by using generic drugs to substitute for the name brand drugs prescribed by your doctor.
Want to dig deeper? Check out these resources:
- Visit the FDA’s Facts about Generic Drugs Web site, which is full of statistics and information regarding generic medications and health cost control advice.
- The FDA also has a substantial Understanding Generic Drugs Web site dedicated to the subject of generic medications from a consumer point of view. It provides educational materials, facts, and answers to generic drug FAQs .
- See these frequently asked questions (FAQs) from Aetna on name brand drugs and their generic drug equivalents.
- Explore WebMD’s guide to generic drugs.
- Consider getting involved. The GPhA encourages and organized a consumer advocacy to push for more generic drug availability here.
- This study report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms some data about the cost savings and efficacy of generic drugs, but also shows some noteworthy inconsistencies or exceptions to the rule.