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.
Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.
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.