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.
A good day for registered pharmacist Michelle Kasperowitz, 37, is when she's peppered with questions. They can range from which blood pressure monitor to buy to whether a rash is poison ivy. And, because she works in a supermarket, she gets lots of food-related inquiries as well. "One man came up to me recently, waving a bag of broccoli," says Kasperowitz, who works at the ShopRite Pharmacy in Woodbridge, N.J. "He's on a blood thinner, and he wanted to know if he could eat it."
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.