JUL 07, 2017 2:50 PM PDT

Are Brand-Name Medicines Better than Generics?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In 2016, a study published in the JAMA journal found that Americans spent a whopping $73 billion on the pricey brand-name drugs. Part of the reason for the exorbitant spending was the unavailability of generic equivalents. However, in some cases, the patients paid for brand-name drugs because they were often not sufficiently informed by their doctors of the less expensive alternatives.

Is there a difference between brand-name drugs and generics? According to the FDA, generics are required to have the same active ingredient, strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the brand-name drug. And the process of demonstrating that generics are equivalent to brand-name drugs is no cakewalk either - manufacturers have to meet the same quality standards that the FDA set out for brand-names.

Differences between brand-name and generic medicines often involve the inactive ingredients - that is, generics may contain different preservatives, dyes, or flavoring agents. Of course the other big difference between brand-name and generics is the cost. The FDA estimates that on average, generics cost about 80-85 percent less than their brand-name counterparts. That's why going generic saved $158 billion in 2010.

So next time you're at the drugstore or at the doctor's office, don't be shy about generics. Just because they're cheap doesn't mean they're at all inferior!
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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