Q: Are generic versions of drugs really just as good (and safe) as
their brand-name counterparts?
A: Yes, for many reasons. Today, almost half of all prescriptions in
the United States are filled with generic drugs. They are less expensive and
often require a lower co-pay if you have insurance, which could mean big cost
savings for you. Generic drug manufacturers don’t have the initial investment
costs associated with development of a new drug. Original manufacturers are
given a patent for their drug to protect their investment, including research,
development, and marketing costs. A generic drug is not available until that
patent expires, about 20 years after the patent is received. Once a generic
version is available, competition helps keep costs down even more.
The next time your doctor writes you a prescription, consider this: The
medication may not be approved for your specific condition or age group.
But you probably shouldn't call the medical board. The practice, called
"off-label" prescribing, is entirely legal and very common. More than one
in five outpatient prescriptions written in the U.S. are for off-label
"Off-label" means the medication is being used in a manner not specified in
the FDA's approved packaging label, or insert...
What about effectiveness? For the most part, they are just as good as
brand-name drugs. Generics have the same active ingredients; in fact, the FDA
requires that generics be as strong as brand-name drugs and work just as
quickly. They also carry the same risk of side effects. This means that, even
though the shape and size of a generic pill may differ from the brand-name pill
you’re used to, it should work the same in the body.