Skip to content

Information and Resources

Generic Drugs: What You Need to Know

Font Size
A
A
A

continued...

Q: Why are generic drugs less expensive?
A: Generic drugs are less expensive because generic manufacturers don't have the investment costs of the developer of a new drug. New drugs are developed under patent protection. The patent protects the investment--including research, development, marketing, and promotion--by giving the company the sole right to sell the drug while it is in effect. As patents near expiration, other manufacturers can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions. Because those manufacturers don't have the same development costs, they can sell their product at substantial discounts. Also, once generic drugs are approved, there is greater competition, which keeps the price down. Today, almost half of all prescriptions are filled with generic drugs.

Q: Are brand-name drugs made in more modern facilities than generic drugs?
A: No. Both brand-name and generic drug facilities must meet the same standards of good manufacturing practices. The FDA won't permit drugs to be made in substandard facilities. The FDA conducts 3,500 inspections a year to ensure standards are met. Generic firms have facilities comparable to those of brand-name firms. In fact, brand-name firms are linked to an estimated 50 percent of generic drug production. They frequently make copies of their own or other brand-name drugs but sell them without the brand name.

Q: If brand-name drugs and generics have the same active ingredients, why do they look different?
A: In the United States, trademark laws do not allow a generic drug to look exactly like the brand-name drug. However, a generic drug must duplicate the active ingredient. Colors, flavors, and certain other inactive ingredients may be different.

Q: Does every brand-name drug have a generic counterpart?
A: No. Brand-name drugs are generally given patent protection for 20 years from the date of submission of the patent. This provides protection for the innovator who laid out the initial costs (including research, development, and marketing expenses) to develop the new drug. However, when the patent expires, other drug companies can introduce competitive generic versions, but only after they have been thoroughly tested by the manufacturer and approved by the FDA.

Q: What is the best source of information about generic drugs?
A: Contact your physician, pharmacist, or insurance company for information on your generic drugs. Also, visit the FDA Web site at www.fda.gov/cder/ogd/.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA

1 | 2

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.