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Brand Name Drugs vs Generic Drugs – Which is Better for You?

By: Christine Stone, RN, BSN

If you watch TV you’ve probably seen all those commercials for drugs claiming to be the next best thing for any variety of medical conditions from diabetes to dementia to toe fungus. You name the disease, there’s probably a new medication being advertised. Yes, we are very fortunate to have new medications and therapies available to us. But the cost to develop, test, and advertise new drugs can run in the multi-millions of dollars, and are therefore, very expensive. And while name brand name drugs are effective, they can be very costly to you, the consumer, and may not be covered by your prescription plan. So what’s the answer? Generic Drugs.
If you’re like most people who take prescription medications, you know how costly those medications can be.
But should cost be the primary deciding factor when choosing a generic medication over a name brand medication? This is an important discussion to have with your healthcare providers. Let’s look at the differences.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully regulates the development and testing of new drugs. Once a drug has been tested and proven safe for humans, it is patented, manufactured and prescribed by physicians. The patent on new drugs is about 20 years. This prevents copycat (generic) drugs from being manufactured in any form or dosage. Once the patent has expired, other companies can legally manufacture generic versions of the drug. The FDA makes sure generic drugs have the same chemical structure as the name brand drug.

Are generic drugs as effective as brand name drugs? The answer is Yes and No.
Once a drug is more affordable, many more people will be taking the drug. This means that rare problems with the drug could emerge that were not evident when the drug was first tested. This is one main reason people are wary of generic drugs. There are also rare situations where a person’s body chemistry is different from that of the average person which alters the drug’s effectiveness for that person. In this case, the brand name medication is the better choice. For most people, the generic drug is perfectly acceptable.

In summary, talk with your health care providers when deciding the best medications for you. Don’t be shy about asking if you need the brand name drug. I have found that most providers are sensitive to patient costs and are very willing to order generic drugs. Remember – you always have the right to know and be informed about any medication or test being prescribed for you.