Why are some drugs “name brand” and others considered “generic?”
Pharmaceutical companies exist in order to create new or better drugs for current medical problems.
They spend billions of dollars finding new or better drugs; in doing so, they have to pay researchers, chemists, and scientists for the initial research stage of the process.
Then, when they have something that they think will work, they pay different researchers to run initial tests on the product.
If the drug passes those tests, the company pays for clinical trials. Within those trials, animals or humans are given either the drug or a placebo (a fake version of the drug, which contains no actual drug at all), in order to check to see if the drug is effective or if there are any horrible side effects.
This process can take years or even decades.
Why does a drug company invest so much money and so much time?
They do this because they know that, if they discover a great drug, they will be the only ones able to sell it for a period of time, typically 17 years. During those 17 years, no other company can make this drug or any version of it.
Often, this means that drug companies charge a lot of money for the drug because they know that they are the only option for purchasing it. Although this may seem unfair to other companies or to patients, this is necessary because it encourages each company to spend those billions of dollars and those years of work to develop that drug and other future drugs, in order to reach the point of having a control on the drug and thus making a lot of profit.
Are generic drugs as good as the name brand versions?
After the 17 years are over, other companies are allowed to make very similar versions of the drug, which are called generic. Laws about how close to the original these drugs must be vary by country.
However, when this time comes, since many companies are allowed to make almost identical versions, each company has to price their version competitively in order to get you and others to buy their version. This is when the drug often becomes much more affordable.
Regardless of whether the drug is name brand or generic, the United States of America FDA currently has a Good Manufacturing Practice regulation, which requires that all drugs be tested and approved relating to strength, quality, purity, packaging, and labeling. Because there is some difference between each company’s version of the drug, it is possible that a person could be allergic to one of the filler ingredients or the company’s color dyes or other included variations that make their product unique.
If you are experiencing side effects after switching from a name brand drug to the generic form, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about this.
How do I know if the drugs I want or need come in generic versions? Is there a way to know if the name brand drug I currently use will become generic soon?
The internet is an efficient way to find out whether your prescribed drug comes in generic form. You may also be able to find out when the drug company began to sell their drug on the open market and thus how long the company will solely own the rights to sell it before others can begin to create generic versions.
In some cases, however, doctors may continue to prescribe name brand versions of drugs, even when generic versions are available. Always check with your doctor and pharmacist about this.
Some doctors are simply loyal to a brand name that they are most familiar with. Others have anecdotal evidence amongst their patients that a generic brand has more side effects or is harder to find in local drugstores than the name brand.
Whatever the reason, talking with the person who prescribes your medication(s) and the person who fills them is the best way to find out more.
How can I get the most for my money when it comes to the drugs I need?
At each of your doctor visits, speak with him/her about the medication you are currently taking. Discuss whether each is necessary for your care and let your doctor know if you are concerned about the cost of the medication(s).
When you pick up your medication(s) at the pharmacy, check with the pharmacist or their technician to find out whether there are generic versions of your medication and whether the doctor’s prescription includes those options. (Sometimes, you may need to contact your doctor for a new prescription that includes the option of choosing generic versions of the medication).
If you are unable to afford your prescription(s), contact your doctor before your current prescription ends, so that they are able to work with you to find a new medication plan.
Never stop taking any prescription without consulting your doctor first.1-5