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Brand vs. Generic Medications: What's the Real Deal?

Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D

Updated on August 24th, 2023

Save up to 88% on your medications

Ever found yourself scratching your head at the pharmacy, trying to decide between a generic ibuprofen and the familiar brand Advil? Or maybe pondering if the trusty Lipitor is a better choice than its generic cousin, atorvastatin? With all these choices, it's easy to assume that the household brand names, backed by big pharmaceutical companies, are superior. However, with generics often being much lighter on the wallet, it makes you wonder, are generics really as good?

Are Generic Medications Up to the Mark?

Absolutely! Generics hold their own against brand names. Research suggests that generics fare just as effectively as their brand-name counterparts for chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. So, a friendlier price tag doesn’t mean a dip in quality. In fact, before a generic hits the shelves, it undergoes rigorous scrutiny by the FDA to ensure it matches the brand-name version in active ingredients, strength, dosage form, and route of administration.

Spotting the Differences: Brand vs. Generic

Here's the lowdown on what sets these two apart:

1. Price: Generic meds come at a fraction of the cost. Why? They're free from the weight of expensive clinical trials and advertising campaigns that brand-name meds carry.

2. Inactive Ingredients: These are the non-medicinal parts of the drug, like dyes or fillers. They don’t affect how the drug works, but they can vary between generics and brand names.

3. Appearance: Due to branding rules, generics can't be mirror images of brand-name drugs. So, they might have a different color or shape, but they still do the job just as well.

Why Go Generic?

Your pick between generic and brand-name often boils down to price, insurance coverage, and personal preferences.

  • Cost-Savings: Generics, like the zolpidem version of Ambien, can save you a bundle. And with an RxLess coupon, you might just land an even sweeter deal!
  • Insurance Perks: Insurance companies love generics because they're cost-effective. Opting for a generic often means less out-of-pocket expenses for you.

The choice is yours - want to be a savvy saver? Ask your doctor to write prescriptions using the generic name or to allow substitutions. If there's a generic available, the pharmacist will have you covered.

When to Think Twice about Generics

While most generics and brand names can be swapped seamlessly, there are a few instances in which sticking to the brand might be best. For example, switching from a brand-name anti-seizure medication to its generic might pose some risks. And certain eye meds might show varying results in their generic forms. However, these are exceptions, not the rule. If you're considering a switch, a chat with your healthcare provider can guide you to the best decision.

So, the next time you're at the pharmacy, you’ll be well-armed with the info you need to make the best choice for your health and wallet!

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