Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Select An Article

    Generic Drugs: Answers to Common Questions

    Font Size

    If you've had a prescription filled recently, there's a good chance you're taking a generic drug. Almost 80% of prescription drugs sold are generics. That option helps save patients and hospitals billions of dollars every year.

    It's estimated that you could save at least two-thirds of your drug costs if you use generic drugs.

    Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

    The Art of Aging Gracefully

    In Nora Ephron's best-selling book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, she laments the sorry state of her 60-something neck: "Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck," she writes. "Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever's writing it says it's great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow; it's great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can't...

    Read the The Art of Aging Gracefully article > >

    According to the FDA, generic drugs can be trusted to have the same quality as brand-name drugs -- but at a cheaper price. That's important to know because no one wants to skimp on health, even if it means saving money.

    How Are Generics the Same as Brand-Name Drugs?

    The FDA requires a generic drug to meet standards that ensure it's the same basic product as the brand-name drug. That means the generic drug is safe and can be taken:

    • The same way as a brand-name drug
    • For the same reason as a brand-name drug

    For the FDA to approve a generic drug, it must be the same as the brand-name product in:

    • Active ingredient
    • Strength
    • Use and effect
    • How you take it (for example as a pill, inhaler, or liquid)
    • Ability to reach the required level in the bloodstream at the right time and to the same extent
    • Testing standards

    How Are Generics Different From Brand-Name Drugs?

    Some differences between generics and brand-name drugs are allowed. These may change the look of the drug. But they don’t affect how it works or its safety.

    Generic drugs may differ in:

    • Shape
    • Color
    • Packaging
    • Labeling (minor differences)

    Generic drugs are allowed to have different inactive ingredients than brand-name drugs. For example, they may have a different:

    • Flavoring
    • Preservative

    The inactive ingredients in a generic, though, must be considered safe by the FDA.

    Generic drugs may also have a different expiration date than brand-name drugs. But even so, the generic must keep its effectiveness until its expiration date, just like a brand-name product.

    Why Are Generic Drugs Cheaper Than Brand-Name Drugs?

    You may be wondering how a generic drug can be sold at a much lower price than a brand-name drug.

    The difference in price has to do with the different costs drugmakers have in bringing generics and brand-name drugs to the pharmacy shelf.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing