Generic vs Brand Drugs: What Are the Pros and Cons?

generic vs. brand

You are at the pharmacy window with a new prescription. Your doctor has explained the benefits of this medication, and you are hopeful that it will treat your condition. As you wait, your pharmacist appears and asks you a question. "Did you know this medication now comes in a generic form? Do you want the generic or the brand name?"

Decisions such as this one are fraught with a dizzying amount of information. When you are deciding between a generic vs. brand drug, you'll need to take into consideration the pros and cons: price, effectiveness, availability, reviews, and recommendations.

Read on to learn more about the difference between generic and brand medicines, and how to decide which one is right for you.

Generic vs. Brand Medications: Is There a Difference?

Generic medications contain the same active ingredients as brand name medications and they work the same way. They have the same risks and benefits and by law, generic drugs must be identical to brand names in the following categories:

  • Strength
  • Safety
  • Active Ingredients
  • Quality
  • Purity
  • How they work
  • How they are taken
  • How they should be used

While the active ingredients must be the same, there can be differences in the inactive ingredients. Every medication is made up of ingredients known to pharmacists as excipients.

These can be fillers, detergents, dyes, sugars, binders, and antioxidants.

These substances are not supposed to affect the consumer, but there are instances where they can. Lactose, for instance, is commonly used as a filler in medications. Someone who is allergic to it may not be able to tolerate a formulation that contains it.

Additionally, certain drugs classified as NTI (narrow therapeutic index) need to be carefully monitored when given in a generic form. These medications can be dangerous or ineffective if there is a difference in dose or blood concentration. It is always important to ask your doctor or pharmacist about whether a generic version of this type of medication is ok to use.

Sometimes the way a tablet is made can affect the way it is absorbed by the body. Some people report better results from a capsule, while others may respond better to a tablet. These casings can differ according to the manufacturer. A large-scale research study found that there was a 3.5% difference in absorption between generic and brand-name medications.

Generic Medications: The Pros and Cons

Generic medications have unique benefits that may make them more desirable than brand name drugs. Consider the following pros and cons when deciding which one is right for you.

Pros

Lower Individual Costs

Manufacturing drugs can be very expensive. Because a generic manufacturer does not have to make the drug from scratch, the cost to the consumer is lower.

Brand-name manufacturers have to conduct clinical trials, and the costs are passed on. Multiple companies make generics which creates competition, thus lowering the cost even further. On average, the cost of a generic drug is 80% to 85% lower than the brand-name drug.

Lower Industry Costs

A study from the Association of Accessible Medicines has shown that generic drugs accounted for $265 billion in healthcare savings in 2017. Generic drugs generate savings for state health care programs and reduce healthcare costs for consumers overall.

Easy to Find

It isn't hard to find the generic alternative of most drugs. There are over 12,000 generic equivalents to brand-names and they can easily be obtained at most pharmacies. It is not necessary to do research or hunt for them, and they provide the same benefits as their counterparts.

Bioequivalent and FDA Approved

Generic prescriptions must meet the same standards as brand-names. They must still pass FDA inspections, and create the same therapeutic response. When it comes to quality, active ingredients, safety, and how they are administered, they should be exactly the same. As you will see in the cons sections below, however, this is not always the case.

Cons

Quality

There have been instances where a generic drug has been contaminated or has not met quality standards. Some manufacturers have shown more concern over profit than safety, which has led to contamination, changes in formulation, and dangerous manufacturing practices.

Inactive Ingredients

The fillers and binders in medications vary according to the manufacturer. For some patients with sensitivities or allergies, a different formulation can have an effect. In some extended-release medicines, generics have been shown to break down faster. This can result in the body encountering a large dose of the medicine much more quickly, as opposed to contacting it over time.

Variability in Dosing

The FDA allows for the bioavailability of a generic drug to vary from a minimum of 80% to a maximum of 125% from the original brand formulation. Some studies have shown that these variances in dosing can affect how a patient responds to a medication. Certain medications for high blood pressure, thyroid conditions, and depression are sensitive to dosage fluctuations such as these.

Unavailability

Some medications don't have a generic version available. Certain medications, like Premarin, which treats osteoporosis and hot flashes don't come in a generic version because the active ingredients have not been defined. Medications that have been on the market for less than 20 years don't have a generic equivalent. If the doctor can prescribe a similar medication with a generic counterpart, however, they may do so.

Order the Medication That's Right For You

Now that you know some of the main differences between generic vs. brand medications, you can find the medication that is right for you. Consider what you are willing to pay, the availability of the medication, your doctor's recommendations, and what has worked for you in the past.

At PricePro Pharmacy, we have a wide range of both brand name and generic drugs for you to choose from at a fraction of the cost of what you will pay in the United States. We can deliver your prescription to your door with safe and secure ordering and shipping methods.

If you are new to our pharmacy and want to learn about how we work, and patient satisfaction, be sure to check out some of our reviews.