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Generic Drugs

WebMD Magazine - Feature

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.

Recommended Related to Drugs and Herbs

Off-Label Drug Use: What You Need to Know

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 therapies. "Off-label" means the medication is being used in a manner not specified in the FDA's approved packaging label, or insert. Every...

Read the Off-Label Drug Use: What You Need to Know article > >

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.

Michael W. Smith, MD

Reviewed on November 01, 2007

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