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 drug sales are generics. Their use 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

4 Ways to Stop Age-Related Memory Loss

She could deal with constantly forgetting her shopping list, and she'd made a habit of writing down where she'd parked her car, each and every time. But in her mid-50s, Janis Mara's memory problems started costing her money. Late fees began piling up because she forgot to pay her bills. "Over time, it really intensified," she says. "I wanted to think I was just getting older, but my fear was that it was Alzheimer's." After bugging her HMO for an MRI, Mara discovered that her lapses weren't anything...

Read the 4 Ways to Stop Age-Related Memory Loss 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.

What Are the Ways Generics Are the Same as Brand-Name Drugs?

The FDA requires a generic drug to meet standards that make sure 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 its:

  • Active ingredient
  • Strength
  • Use and effect
  • Form of dosage (for example 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 differences may change the appearance of the drug. But they do not affect how it works or its safety.

Generic drugs may differ in:

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

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 as required of 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.

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.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
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