Women’s Health FAQs

Generic vs. Brand Name Prescription Drugs

Publication Date: July 13, 2017

By: Ali Tweedt


I can’t always afford brand-name prescription drugs that my doctor recommends. Is it okay to use generic drugs instead?


If you have trouble affording brand-name prescriptions, you’re not alone. According to the FDA, today, nearly 8 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generics [1]. And the good news is generics are perfectly safe alternatives to brand-name [1]. The National Women’s Health Network actually recommends consumers purchase generics over their brand-name equivalents. Using generics is one way to protect yourself from the unknown risks of brand-name, “new” drugs. Unlike new drugs, generics are time-tested, so we know more about their risks and benefits.

If you’re worried generics aren’t as effective as brand-name, don’t be. The FDA requires generics to have the same quality and performance as brand-name. Generic drugs are chemically identical to brand-name in every way: dose, safety, strength, how it is meant to be taken, quality, intended use, and bioavailability [1]. The only significant difference between generic and brand-name is price. On average, a generic costs 80 to 85 percent less than the brand-name alternative [2]. However, know that this cheaper cost does not mean cheaper quality.

The NWHN advises consumers to choose generics when possible to save money, drive down healthcare costs, and decrease the chance of drug-related adverse effects. However, if your physician recommends that you take a brand-name drug, we advise you to ask why they recommend it over a generic one to ensure this is the right decision for you.

For more information on generic drugs, check out our consumer health information.


[1] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2013, December 21). Patient education. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/patient-education         

[2] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Facts about generic drugs [Infographic]. Retrieved February 15th, 2024, from  https://www.fda.gov/media/83670/download      

Updated 2/15/2024 by Rachel Grimsley, RN, BSN, MSN, Nurse Writer

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