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Branded VS. Generic Drugs

February 10, 2015 @ 10:11 AM -- by Dr. Steven Chander

 Do I get the generic or the branded drug?

 Many of us are told that generic are the same as the branded medications. 

 After all they have the same ingredients, in cheaper packaging and they can sell the drug for much less because they don’t have to spend large  sums of money on development, research, patents and marketing.


 For this reason, over 80% of the prescriptions filled last year were generic.

The Truth is generic drugs are not the same in many ways as the branded drugs.  Big pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars on research to ensure the drug is not only effective for humans to use, but safe.  They spend millions on development attaining the best ingredients to be effective and safe.  They also spend millions on FDA approval, patents and marketing.  So the maker/inventor of the 

drug is not likely to simply hand over the secret formula or make the exact ingredients public knowledge when the patent runs out.

When the patent runs out, it reveals only the components…not how to make the drug.  It’s kind of like seeing the ingredients of recipe without the instructions of what to measure and put together first

After all Coca-Cola does not give its secret formula away, which is why all cola’s do not taste the same?

It cannot possibly be duplicated.

So the generic companies have to almost work backwards and approximate how to make the medication rather than duplicating the original.

A generic must have the same active ingredient as the original.  But the other ingredients, sometimes known as binders or fillers that help the drug get into your system, can be different are always of lower quality and or cost.  This can affect how well the active ingredient actually works because the same amount of active ingredient may not get into the body the way the doctor intended it to help cure your eye infection, control your diabetes or blood pressure for example.


In order to further cut costs some medications come from manufacturing plants that the FDA has not yet inspected, and so quality can be significantly lessened.  In November 2012 the generic for Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering medication, recalled about half a million bottles after tiny shards of glass were found in the pills!

In order to keep costs down in eye care products, sometimes the plastic of the bottles are made with cheaper materials, making it difficult for patients to squeeze the bottle properly to get medication into their eyes.  Because generics are made in different manufacturing plants, they at times are not exactly the same as your last month’s supply.

In some cases of eye medications, the generic is only $25-$30 less, and in some cases after the branded manufacturer gives a rebate to the patient, generics can actually cost more.  If your doctor prescribes a medication and indicates “no-substitutions”, be sure your pharmacist is filling the prescription to the exact standards your doctor is asking.

If the medication is not on your insurance formulary and the pharmacists is suggesting a generic equivocal, ask your doctor if there are any similar medications that are branded that may be on the formula first.

Generics are great substitutions in some cases, especially for established drugs.  However, in most cases because of better technology, newer drugs may work faster, and safer for you.


** Always check with you Doctor before accepting a generic from a pharmacy. ** 

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