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Are Generic Drugs Safe?

Generic vs. Brand-Name Drugs: Are They Both the Same?

We often hear recommendations to buy generic, because they are pretty much the same as brand-name drugs, and are cheaper to boot. But many still stick with a brand they know, because after all, no one wants to take a gamble with their health. Here is a breakdown of facts you should know:

  • How They Come About: Generic brands start surfacing when the patent of the brand-name drugs expires. Patents can last up to 20 years, and after they expire, other drug makers are allowed to come out with generic versions, which the US Food and Drug Administration rigorously regulates. The generic drugs are required to have the "same high quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs," according to the FDA website.
  • Why the Cost is Less: Generic drug producers charge a lower cost, because they are spending a lot less on marketing, advertising, and are not investing heavily in research and development.
  • Different Looks and Names: You might be used to the look of your brand-name drug, so if the generic has a different appearance, this might cause some confusion. Although the contrast might be great, the generic drugs still perform the same functions. Brand-name drugs often give themselves catchy names, which are different from the original drug name, so bear in mind that a different name doesn't mean a different drug.

For more information on generic vs. brand-name drugs, read on.

  • Easy to Check: You can find out if your brand-name drug has a generic version on FDA online generic drug library, Drugs@FDA, or ask your doctor and pharmacist if there are any generic drugs you can take in lieu of the brand names.
  • Big Savings: The amount you'll be saving on your generic brands will add up. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that consumers are saving about $8 to $10 billion annually at retail pharmacies.  You'll personally be saving about 80 to 85 percent if you go generic, says the FDA.

The decision to switch is up to you, but know that you will be saving a lot if you buy a generic drug that works just as well. Make sure you talk to your doctor before making the change to dispel any doubts you have and to make certain that this is the right change for you.

Source: Flickr User

NoAccount NoAccount 5 years
I thought it was really important to make an account to let people know: generics are the same medication, but they're NOT the same release mechanism. If you're on a time release medication (particularly for things like seizure disorders) ALWAYS get name brand.    Personally, I take Ritalin for ADHD and am on the time release formula. It's an expensive medication, so I thought I should try the generic since it was about half the price. I thought my heart was going to explode and ended up in the hospital, because instead of delaying the dose, it gave me the full dose upfront (so double my prescription. It was one of the scariest days of my life). The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong, because it just said Ritalin on my chart. I didn't figure out what was wrong until I found an ADHD support site where other people experienced the same thing after switching to generic.    Another thing to take into account is that the fillers are different. If you have allergies or Celiac disease, make sure to get a break down of the filler ingredients before deciding to switch to generic.    Generics can save you a lot of money, and a lot of the time they do work just as well (over the counter stuff is pretty much identical), just make sure you have all the information before you change your medication. 
Nancy-Einhart Nancy-Einhart 5 years
I always buy generic over the counter drugs. I just don't know why anyone would buy brand-name ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.
gumdrops334 gumdrops334 6 years
This comes at a very convenient time, as I am stuffed up and had to go buy some Walgreens-brand cold meds. The ingredients are the same people!
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