The issue of brand name versus generic prescription drugs has intensified in recent years to become a common topic of discussion. The information below will help you find just what you need to understand more about this topic. For more information about generic drugs, contact your physician, pharmacist or insurance company.
Although generics may look different, they use the same active ingredients and have the same intended use, quality, risks and benefits as their brand name counterparts.
The FDA requires that all drugs be safe and effective, and both brand name and generic drug facilities meet the same standards of good manufacturing practices. In fact, brand name companies are linked to an estimated 50 percent of generic drug production–they frequently make copies of their own or other brand name drugs but sell them without the brand name.
However, it is important to consider that generic drugs are not necessarily formulated in an identical manner to their brand name counterparts, therefore affecting absorption into the patient’s bloodstream. This absorption may cause occasional differences in individual response and side effects.
Generic drugs are less expensive because generic manufacturers do not incur the investment costs of the development of a new drug. New drugs are developed under patent protection, which protects the investment–including research, marketing and promotion–by giving the company the sole right to sell the drug while it is in effect. When the patent expires, other drug companies can apply to the FDA to sell competitive generic versions, but only after the drug has been thoroughly tested by the manufacturer and approved by the FDA. Because generic manufacturers don’t have the same development costs, they can sell their product at substantial discounts. Also, once generic drugs are approved, there is greater competition, which keeps the price down. Today, almost half of all prescriptions are filled with generic drugs.
A generic drug is called by its chemical name, while a manufacturer assigns a brand name.
Reference and Publication Information
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is committed to providing accurate and reliable information for transplant patients. The content on this page was originally created on
August 1, 2003 by UNOS and last modified on October 10, 2016.
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