Two exact same personified pill bottles high five. Only one has a large pricetag

Are Generic Antivirals Just as Effective as Their Brand Counterparts?

If you take some routine medications, chances are, you are familiar with generic and brand name options available at your retail pharmacy. Overall, there is a lot of confusion that surrounds the use of generic drugs.

I have heard some assumptions that generic drugs are inferior in quality compared to their brand counterparts. This may be because we are conditioned to think cheaper products are inferior.

Differences between brand name and generic

It takes a long time for a drug manufacturer to research and develop a new drug; clinical trials to prove the drug’s effectiveness take years to conduct.  Because of this, when a manufacturer comes up with a new drug, they are incentivized by being the sole supplier of that drug until the patent expires (from what I have read).

During that time, they will sell the drug as the brand name. The generic of the drug is the active ingredient, also known as the ingredient that should have the intended effect.

For example, Epclusa is a brand-name drug to treat Hep C. It has two active ingredients: sofosbuvir-velpatasvir.

In the United States, generic Epclusa was made available in 2019 1, sold under the name sofosbuvir-velpatasvir.

Cost difference between generic and name brand

For most drugs, I have experienced a substantial cost difference between the brand and generic. I believe that this is because there are usually multiple generic companies that try to enter the market with their generic product, so they compete for market share with each other.

I believe that this drives down the price significantly. Another reason could be that brand name companies might have had to invest in research and development, which is quite costly, so a higher price tag is applied to their drugs. In my experience, it is not uncommon for a generic to be 50% less than the cost of the brand.

I have seen where the manufacturers of brand drugs will offer a discount in the form of a drug card. This helps reduce a portion of the price of the brand name.

An important factor to consider is that most insurance companies probably do not cover the brand name fully if a generic is available. They might only cover up to the cost of the generic – if you want the brand name, you would have to pay the difference in price out of pocket, depending on your insurance of course.

Effectiveness of generic drugs

From my own research, I have found that generic drugs might be just as safe and effective as their brand counterparts. Just because they are cheaper, they are by no means lower quality from what I have read.

If both drugs have the same active ingredient, they should behave the same way in the body. In order for a generic drug to be deemed interchangeable with the brand, it has to go through rigorous studies where it is tested to ensure effectiveness, safety, and quality 2.

Are there are any other differences?

Although both have the same active ingredient, the filler or dyes might differ between brands, depending on the medication. Some people are sensitive to these inactive ingredients, but most people might not notice any difference at all when they switch between brands.

For myself, I always pick the generic product, if available, for my prescriptions.

What is your experience with generic versus name-brand drugs?

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