Generic drugs have the same active ingredient(s) as their equivalent brand name drugs. They also have the same effects, dosage, side effects, and risks, but generic drugs are typically significantly cheaper than their brand name alternatives.
When a drug is first developed, typically only a brand name version exists. However, when that company’s patent on the drug runs out, other companies can sell the same drug under a generic name.
|Brand Name Drugs||Generic Drugs|
|Availability||Available first (before generics become available)||Only available after patent runs out|
|Cost||More expensive||80-85% cheaper|
Generic drugs are significantly cheaper than brand name drugs, because the makers of generic drugs do not have to cover the cost of developing and marketing a new product. According to the FDA, a generic drug is typically 80-85% cheaper than the brand name alternative.
For example, on Walgreens.com, the price of Allegra (180mg, 30 tablets) is $17.99 whereas the generic Fexofenadine (180mg, 30 tablets) is $11.99; Tylenol (Extra Strength, 100 tablets) is $9.49 whereas Acetaminophen (Extra Strength, 100 tablets) is $2.39.
To learn more about the pricing of brand name and generic drugs and how pharmaceutical companies spend their earnings on research, watch the following video:
FDA regulations mean that generic drugs are required to be as safe and as effective as brand-name drugs. Trademark laws prevent generic drugs from looking exactly the same as brand-name drugs (for example, the pill might be a different color), but the drugs’ active ingredients are identical.
Because they are both monitored by the FDA in the same way, there is no additional risk in taking a generic drug over a brand-name drug.
On March 25th 2013, the Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the release of generic drugs. The FTC argues that brand-name drug makers are paying other drug companies to delay their release of generic versions to ensure that they can keep their drug prices high. Another case is also currently going through the Supreme Court to decide whether the makers of generic drugs are liable for any harm that a drug does, as these drugs must be identical, in content and labeling, to the brand name version.
A list of generic alternatives to brand name drugs is available here. Generic alternatives for some of the commonly used drugs include:
|Brand Name Drug||Generic equivalent||Medical use|
|Advil||Ibuprofen||Painkiller, fever reducer|
|Advair Diskus, Seretide||Fluticasone + Salmeterol||Asthma|
|Agiolax||Sphagula husk + Senna||Gastrointestinal disorders|
|Amoxil||amoxicillin||Antibiotic used to treat infection|
|Cymbalta||Duloxetine||Depression, Anxiety disorders|
|Lantus||Insulin analog (Insulin glargine)||Type 2 and type 1 diabetes|
|Motrin||Ibuprofen||Painkiller, fever reducer|
|Nurofen||Ibuprofen||Painkiller, fever reducer|
|Prevacid||Lansoprazole||Acid reflux, GERD|
|Provigil||Modafinil||Narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea|
|Remicade||Infliximab||Crohn's disease, Rheumatoid arthritis|
|Ritalin||methylphenidate||ADHD, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy|
|Rituxan, MabThera||Rituximab||Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Rheumatoid arthritis|
|Spiriva||Tiotropium||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease|
|Truvada||Tenofovir + Emtricitabine||HIV infection|
|Tylenol||Acetaminophen||Pain reliever, Fever reducer|
|Vicodin||Acetaminophen + hydrocodone||Moderate to severe pain relief|
|Xanax||Alprazolam||Anxiety, Panic disroders|