Pros & Cons of Generic Medication vs. Name Brands

As the costs of medical care rise, people are increasingly feeling the pinch. However, while not much can be done to control doctor bills, people do have some control over how much they pay for their medications. The competitive world of pharmaceutical drugs has given rise to generic versions of nearly everything, ranging from impotency drugs to heart medications. That said, some people are wondering whether generics and brand-named drugs are really the same. Here are some pros and cons to each.

Brand Name Drugs

Brand-name drugs have typically been on the market longer, so people may feel more comfortable taking them. Information on them is also more widely available, and the side effects are generally better-known.

It’s also theoretically possible that brand name drugs may be a safer option. Before they’re released to the public, these drugs are subject to scrutiny and approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Much of the price of brand name medications comes from the costs associated with years, or possibly decades, of research and trials to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Unfortunately, branded drugs can present a considerable financial burden, especially to people living on a fixed income. Because the companies that produce these drugs hold patent rights, they’re able to charge more, especially if the drug is newer.

Generic Drugs

The biggest benefit by far of choosing generic medications is the relatively low cost. In fact, many pharmacies advertise common generic medications, such as antibiotics and diabetes drugs, at a few dollars per prescription. This is fantastic news if you don’t make a lot of money or if other health care costs eat up a significant portion of your budget.

In many cases, generic drugs are considered to be as effective as their name-brand counterparts. However, this is the subject of some debate. While the FDA requires these drugs to be reasonably similar in their chemical structure, there may be some slight variations that impact the rate of release, effectiveness and side effects.

This can also affect safety. Because generics are so similar to name brands, the FDA doesn’t require them to undergo the same testing. This procedure is similar to the FDA’s section 510(k) that allows medical devices to be released to the public without testing as long as they are similar enough to those already on the market. This, along with differences in inactive ingredients and slight variations in chemical structure, can result in a whole different set of potentially dangerous side effects.

By and large, most people tolerate generic drugs just as well, if not better, than name-brand versions. Combined with the lower cost, this is often reason enough for people to stick with them.