Generic vs. Brand Name Prescription Drugs


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 generic drugs. And the good news is, generic drugs are perfectly safe alternatives to brand-named drugs. The Network actually recommends consumers purchase generic drugs over their brand-name equivalents. Using generic drugs is one way to protect yourself from the unknown risks of brand-name, “new” drugs. Unlike new drugs, generic drugs are time-tested, so we know more about their risks and benefits.

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

The Network advises consumers to choose generic drugs when possible in order 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 named drug, we advise you to ask why they are recommending a brand-name drug over generic to ensure that this is the right decision for you.

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

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