What you may not know about generic prescription drugs
Posted: May 04, 2020 | Word Count: 646
Many prescription medications on the market today are expensive, and may not be fully covered by health insurance plans. Because of the costs involved, people who take prescription medications often ask their doctor or pharmacist about less expensive options that might be available to them. In many cases, generic versions of prescription medications can provide savings.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about generic drugs:
Are all generics the same?
No. Most people don't realize that there are two types of generic drugs; authorized generics and regular generic medications1. Both regular generics and authorized generics are FDA approved, safe and effective. However there are some differences that consumers should keep in mind.
Authorized generics are identical1 to their name-brand counterparts. They are made by the same manufacturer, most often in the same facility and on the same equipment as the brand-name drug. In addition, they have the exact same active and inactive ingredients, which means they will have the same size, shape, smell, taste and feel as the brand name drug.
Regular generics, on the other hand, are copies of brand drugs made by a different company than the manufacturer of the brand-name drug. They can be different in size, shape, smell, taste and feel – both compared to the brand and compared to other generic drugs. Like authorized generics, regular generics have the same active ingredients, dosage form and strength as the brand-name drug. However, regular generics often have different inactive ingredients, which make up 70% of an oral tablet, on average2. Inactive ingredients do not have a pharmacological effect and are added to generic medications as fillers or binders.
What are some things to consider when taking generic drugs?
In many cases, multiple manufacturers make a generic version of a particular brand-name drug, each using their own formulation of inactive ingredients. In fact, the 18 most prescribed oral medications have an average of 82 different available formulas2. Pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors can shift purchases of a given generic from one manufacturer to another on a regular basis. As a result, patients may receive a round, pink tablet one month and an oblong, green tablet the next month for the same prescription from the same pharmacy.
What are the key benefits of authorized generics?
With authorized generics, consumers switching from brand-name drugs to generics can feel confident that the medication they are taking will be the exact same drug product as the brand name drug they're used to. As long as they are getting the authorized generic, they can be assured each and every refill will be the same product every time. This consistency in medication may be a factor in switchback rates. A switchback occurs when a patient switches back to the brand-name product from a generic medication. A recently published study showed lower switchback rates in patients who switched from brand-name to authorized generic medications than patients who switched from brand-name to regular medications3.
Where can people find authorized generic drugs?
If you are interested in exploring authorized generics as an option, more information is available at AuthorizedGenerics.com, including a Product Finder tool to find out whether an authorized generic version of your medication is available.
Bottom line, knowing your treatment options is an important part of managing your health. This is why understanding your options in generic drugs and talking with your physician or pharmacist can help you make informed decisions and take control of your health.
1 U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA List of Authorized Generic Drugs. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/abbreviated-new-drug-application-anda/fda-list-authorized-generic-drugs.
2 Daniel Reker et al. “Inactive” ingredients in Oral Medications. Science Translational Magazine, March 2019. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/11/483/eaau6753.
3 Rishi J Desai et al. Differences in rates of switchbacks after switching from branded to authorized generic and branded to generic drug products: cohort study. BMJ, April 2018.