The U.S. is notorious for its spending on pharmaceuticals, as well as the seemingly exorbitant cost of medications, too, despite how many people rely on these drugs. In 2021, it’s predicted that Americans will spend over $610 billion of their hard-earned money on prescription medication. 74 percent of these medications are generally brand name drugs, too.
So, why would Americans spend more on brand name vs. generic drugs when they have the option to save money? This blog outlines what you ought to know about both drug versions.
Generic Medications: What Exactly Are They?
If there’s one thing you should know about generic drugs, it’s that they work just as well as brand name drugs. Why? Because they contain the exact same active ingredients. In short, a generic medication comprises the same chemical copy as a brand name medication. As you may already know, generic drugs cost far less than brand name versions — in many cases, they may even cost up to 85 percent less!
Generic medications meet the exact same safety, efficacy, and quality as brand name drugs. And yes, they are approved by the FDA, however, they enter the market in a shorter approval timeframe.
Most generic medications and other active ingredients are manufactured outside of U.S. borders.
How Safe Are Generic Medications?
Nowadays, you can order prescription medications online and save a decent amount of money if you opt for generic versions. You can order prescriptions here if you need to top up your medical supply.
But the question on everyone’s minds about opting for generics is whether they are safe or not. Whether you buy online or in-person, generic medications must meet the same quality standards and pass the same approval process as outlined by the FDA.
They are just as safe as brand name medications but they have to prove they are bioequivalent to that brand name drug. In other words, they must prove they provide the exact same benefits. While the FDA has a huge task of monitoring over 3000 drug manufacturer facilities across the globe, their approval process for generic drugs is no different.
What’s the Difference Between Brand Name Drugs and Generics?
As mentioned, generic drugs undergo the exact same stringent testing protocol as brand name drugs, before they’re FDA approved. The two main prerequisites of a generic drug include the active ingredient and the same benefits of a brand name drug.
But despite these similarities, there are obvious differences.
Brand name and generic drugs don’t look the same because they have different inactive ingredients. However, these do not impact the quality of the drug. This is why a generic drug might have a different coloring or be a different shape or size.
While some people have their concerns about changing over from brand name to generic drugs, most of this skepticism boils down to personal preference.
Your doctor may warn you of certain side effects, adverse reactions, poor efficacy, quality, or worsening symptoms. Most of the time, these are precautions. When it comes down to it, the FDA does not restrict substitution for any type of generic vs. brand name drug.
Bear in mind that your doctor may want to monitor how you react to a generic drug once you have switched from a brand name drug. This is just precautionary.
Why Are Brand Name Drugs so Expensive Anyway?
So, you may be wondering what drives up the cost of brand name drugs in the first place. This main reason is the amount of work that goes into the discovery and development of these drugs.
New brand name drugs undergo several years of research and clinical trials before they’re released onto the market, and then FDA approved. All of this is very expensive but 100 percent necessary to ensure they are effective and safe to use.
Due to the high cost of development and testing, brand companies receive patent and exclusivity protection. This means that the manufacturer of the brand can set the price they want for that medication in order to recoup the costs and make a profit.
But this patent is only valid for a set number of years. Once the patent expires, generic versions of the medication enter the market, which ultimately drives down the price.
When Is a Generic Drug the Better Choice?
Let’s be honest — prescription medications can be expensive, no matter where you live in the world. In the U.S., medication costs are some of the highest across the globe. In fact, up to 8 percent of the U.S. population choose to import their medications from outside the U.S. in order to save money.
With this in mind, it’s always best to opt for generic medications when you’re trying to save money. Most generic versions could cost you a fraction of the price of brand name versions.
When you opt for generic medication, you are also more likely to take your medication regularly, which improves overall health outcomes. So, if you’re not covered by insurance, then generic medications are probably the better choice.
When Is a Brand Name Drug the Better Choice?
Most of the time, there’s no exact scenario when a brand name drug is the better choice over a generic. However, if there is no generic drug available on the market, you will have to opt for what’s available, which will be the brand name drug.
In rare cases, you may need to stick to a brand name prescription if you don’t respond well to a generic drug. The same goes for if you have an allergic reaction or experience side effects due to the inactive ingredients.
Your doctor may also be reluctant to switch you from a brand name to a generic drug due to a narrow therapeutic index (NTI). This is basically the safe range between the benefits and any harmful side effects of a drug.
But much of the time, this is a personal choice made between you and your doctor, and not based on any form of FDA recommendation.
Add to Your Health and Wellness Knowledge with Us
Brand name drugs have their purpose in the pharmaceutical market. But if you just cannot afford them, there’s absolutely no harm in opting for generic versions. Essentially, they are the same drug, made with the same quality and efficacy standards.
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