Drug Prescriptions: Generic vs. Brand Name



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Drug prescriptions can end up costing thousands over the course of a year, especially when the pharmacist fills a brand name prescription. With recession tightening the belts of many Americans, a sure-fire way of saving is to purchase generic drug prescriptions.

Generic Drug Prescriptions: What’s the Difference?

Generic drug prescriptions are no less effective or potent as their brand-name counterparts. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing body that regulates the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs. The FDA requires that all generic prescription drugs contain the same active ingredients, quality, strength, purity, stability and rate of absorption as the “pioneer”, or brand-name, drugs.

Trademark laws prohibit generic drug prescriptions from looking identical to the brand name. This accounts for differences in flavor, shape, size, and color of the pill.

In short, there is no difference in the way a generic and brand-name prescription drug will affect an individual.

From Brand-Name to Generic: Developing Drug Prescriptions

The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 established today’s system of generic drug prescriptions by amending the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to allow manufacturers to seek approval of and manufacture generic versions of brand-name prescription drugs.

All drug companies that seek to sell a new (brand-name) drug must perform extensive tests to prove the drug is safe and provides a real health benefit which outweighs the risks of taking the drug.

If these qualifications are met, the drug is approved for sale and granted a patent. For the life of this patent, the manufacturer is given exclusive sales rights to recoup the expenses of developing the drug. (The cost of research, development, marketing, and promotion is mostly responsible for the high prices of brand-name drug prescriptions.)

As the patent reaches its expiry date, manufacturers can file an Abbreviated New Drug Application to seek approval of the generic drug from the FDA. Companies that are “first-to-file” are granted 180 day exclusivity. In order to meet with approval, the drug must be bio-equivalent, or must deliver the same amount of active ingredients in the same amount of time as the pioneer prescription drug.

If these qualifications are met, the manufacturer is given permission to manufacture and sell the generic version of the drug for less. Because these companies did not accrue drug development costs, they can sell for a discounted rate over the brand-name pharmaceutical manufacturer. Competition among generic manufacturers may further drive the price of generic drugs down. Many brand-name manufacturers also produce generic versions of their own drugs. The FDA has estimated that 50% of generic prescription drug production is by brand name pharmaceutical companies.

Your Drug Prescriptions: Weighing the Cost

Purchasing generic drug prescriptions can save you 50% off of your prescription costs if you know where to shop. Prices of generic drugs vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy, not to mention different online pricing, drug prescriptions from outside the country, and other outlets.

In 1984, less than 19% of prescriptions filled were generic. Today, over 54% of all drug prescriptions filled are generic and there are over 7,800 generic versions of 10,668 FDA approved drugs. Despite over half of prescriptions now filled being generic, only 16 cents of every dollar spent on prescription drugs is spent on generics.

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Sources:

Approved Drugs: Questions and Answers from the US Food and Drug Administration

Generic Drugs: Questions and Answers from the US Food and Drug Administration

Myths and Facts about Generic Drugs from Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand Names? From MedicineNet.com

Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act from Wikipedia

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