The subject of generic medications is not a new one. Nonetheless, recent headlines about the drastic price increases for drugs like Daraprim and the EpiPen have once again lead to much conversation about the place of generic medications in our health care system. Still, many wonder if generics are as safe and effective as the “name brand” medications. The answer is an unequivocal yes.
When many of us think of generics we immediately think “off brands” and “cheap knock offs.” Our minds jump to thoughts of that time we tried the store brand and it just wasn’t as good, it didn’t work or it left us wishing we had just paid a little extra for the “real thing.” But the truth is, when it comes to medication, this could not be further from the truth. All generic medications sold in the United States must meet the same rigorous standard set for the name brand medication. The product must be identical in chemical structure, effectiveness and, most importantly, safety. Furthermore, generics must be labeled and dosed the same as their name brand counterparts. This means that “name brand” and generic medication are often interchangeable with one another. The Food and Drug Administration is tasked with holding manufacturers to the set standards and only approves products that provide sufficient evidence that they are in full compliance. Even after approval, the FDA continuously monitors these products for safety just as they do with the “name brand” drug.
In many cases generic medications offer significant cost savings over the name brand medication. The FDA reports that generic medications represent eight out of every 10 prescriptions filled in the US and save consumers more than $158 billion annually. The high cost of name brand medications is ultimately related to the cost associated with research, development and bringing to market an innovator drug. To promote innovation, companies are awarded patents on new medications that allow them 10 years to sell the drugs exclusively. By design, this allows the company to recoup the cost of development. The side effect is often that innovator drugs are costly. Following the 10 years of exclusivity, generics are free to enter the market and compete driving down costs.
One notable example of this was the 2012 introduction of a generic version of the popular and effective blood thinner Plavix. Sold as generic clopidogrel, this medication provides the same cardiovascular risk reduction as the name brand at a significantly reduced cost. For many with coronary artery disease, stents or a history of stroke, Plavix is nothing short of lifesaving. Generic clopidogrel has provided many with the same protection at a much more affordable price.
With ever-rising health care costs, it is important to make sure that medications remain within reach of all who need them. Generic medications often offer an effective, safe, and affordable alternative for many. Patients can be confident that generic medications proscribed by their doctor are of the highest quality and fully effective. Consulting your doctor or pharmacist about generic medications may help you control your own health spending. It may be well worth having a conversation at your next appointment.
For more information on generic medication and the FDA approval process visit: www.bit.ly/2kXCJ4J.