What is the Benefit of Using Generic Medications?

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“Generic medications are cheaper than their branded counterparts.”

You have likely been told some variance of this statement at your pharmacy, but let’s take a step back and discover what the real difference is between generic and branded medications.

Are generic medications as effective as brand medications? Are they just as safe? How are they different? Here are the answers to these questions and why using generic medications is a viable option.

What is a generic drug?

  • According to the FDA, a generic drug is “a medication created to be the same as an existing, approved brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality and performance characteristics.”
  • It has the exact same active ingredient as the branded version and, therefore, shares the same effectiveness and safety profile.
  • Generic drugs undergo a review process by the FDA before they are approved for market.

Why are generic drugs cheaper?

Generic drugs are not required to undergo the same animal and human clinical trials that branded medications do and therefore are cheaper to bring to market because the research costs are much less.

In addition, once a brand manufacturer loses the patent for the drug after several years of being on the market, multiple generic manufacturers then can produce a generic form of the drug thereby increasing market competition. A generic drug may be as much as 85 percent less in price than the branded medication.

What’s the difference between biosimilar drugs and generic drugs?

A biologic medication falls into a class of large, complex molecules approved to treat diseases and a variety of medical conditions. They are manufactured in a much more complicated process, often using living cells to produce these compounds. Biosimilar medications offer patients a more cost-effective means of obtaining these biological medications.

Biosimilar manufacturers must demonstrate that their products are equivalent in safety, purity and potency as the branded product, though the biosimilar may contain minor differences in inactive components.

Much like generic drugs, biosimilars are not required to undergo the extensive animal and human testing and rely on pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic models for the abbreviated approval pathway and are therefore more cost effective to produce.

Next time you go to the pharmacy, talk to your pharmacist about how generic and biosimilar medications could be an option and save you money.

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