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    Generic Drugs: Answers to Common Questions

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    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.

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    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.

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