What is the difference between a generic drug and a brand-name drug?


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In a time when people are trying their best to save money on prescription medications, one of the most common questions they ask pharmacists is “is a generic drug as effective as a brand-name drug?”

For many medications the answer is usually yes.  For example brand-name Glucophage® has the same active ingredient as generic metformin, used by millions of type 2 diabetics in the United States.

Generic drugs, by law, must be identical in active ingredients to the brand-name drug which was approved by the FDA. The dosage must be the same, as well as the listed side effects, usage, safety warnings and strength. 

The FDA States: “When A Generic Drug Product Is Approved, It Has Met Rigorous Standards Established By The FDA With Respect To Identity, Strength, Quality, Purity, And Potency.”

Still, there may be some differences in the inactive ingredients.  Inactive ingredients may be things like the flavoring, dye, excipients (aka the fillers or agents used to give the pill its size).  If a patient has a sensitivity or allergy to any of these inactive ingredients they may not be able to take that particular medication.

The other difference between prescription brand-name medications and generic medications is the cost. According to the Association for Accessible Medicines, generic medications have saved Americans over $1.67 trillion over the last decade.

If you are taking a prescription medication and are curious about the difference between generic and brand-name medications, we invite you to speak to one of our pharmacists.

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