Generic Drugs – What You Need to Know About Them

By: Helen Bolstad

January 18, 2021

Renown Health pharmacist assists patient with medication

Without a doubt, taking medications can not only be expensive, but also confusing. In the United States, generic prescriptions are widely used, with 9 out of 10 people choosing them over a name brand. Pharmacists are a great resource to help us understand the benefits and side effects of any medication. We asked Adam Porath, PharmD, Vice President of Pharmacy at Renown Health, to answer some common questions about generic drugs.

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug has the same active ingredients of brand-name drugs. Brand-name drugs have a patent (special license) protecting them from competition to help the drug company recover research and development costs. When the patent expires other manufacturers are able to seek approval for a generic drug. However, the color, shape and inactive elements may be different.

Per the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a generic medicine works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version.

Why do they cost less?

Generic drug makers do not have the expense of costly development, research, animal and human clinical trials, marketing and advertising. This savings is passed on to the public. Also after a patent expires, several companies will compete on a generic version of a drug, further driving down prices.

Are generic drugs safe?

Yes, generic drugs gaining FDA approval go through quality testing. They meet the same safety requirements as name brand drugs. The FDA continuously monitors the safety and side effects of medications, ensuring products sold to consumers are effective and safe. They investigate problem reports, making recommendations to health care professionals and the general public.

Who decides if I get a generic drug?

In the State of Nevada, your pharmacist can automatically substitute a generic equivalent to your prescription if one is available. In some cases, your provider may decide that a generic substitution is not appropriate and will indicate this to your pharmacist on your prescription. While generic medicines are widely available, some medications do not have a generic available. Additionally, be sure to check with your insurance company on what is covered and your copay amount. Some insurance plans will only pay for generic versions.

How do I know if there is a generic available for my medication?

The best way to learn about your medication is to talk to your pharmacist. You can also search the FDA’s “Orange Book” to see if there is a generic available by searching the drug brand name or active ingredient.

If you are a Renown patient you can also review your prescriptions online, request a refill or ask a question via MyChart. With MyChart, you can access all your healthcare information securely 24/7.
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