Sav-Rx encourages all cardholders to use generic drugs whenever they are available and to recommend that patients ask their physicians to order generic drugs whenever appropriate. Using generic drugs is an important way that you can help to save money for yourself and your plan. This guide is intended to assist our patients most frequently asked questions regarding generic drugs.
What is a generic drug?
Generic drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe and effective. Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients in the same amounts as the brand-name product. The generic version works like the brand-name drug in dosage, strength, performance and use. Generics may differ in color, shape, size or flavoring from the brand-name product; however, these differences do not affect the performance, safety or effectiveness of the generic drug. They look different because trademark laws in the U.S. do not allow a generic drug to look exactly like other drugs already on the market. When rated by the FDA as equivalent and where permitted by law, a generic drug can be substituted for a brand-name drug.
What are the differences between brand-name and generic drugs?
When a company develops a new drug, the FDA provides a period of time where no other company may sell the drug to allow the original company to recover the investment in the research and development of the medication. This eliminates competition and causes the price to remain high. After this time has lapsed, other companies can manufacture generic versions of the brand medication. In about 50% of the cases, the brand-name firm begins to manufacture the generic themselves. Since the production of generic medications does not require the large investments in research, development and advertising, the cost of the generics are significantly less than that of the brand-name medication. Generally, the cost of generic medications is about half the cost of the brand products.
How does the FDA ensure that my generic drug is as safe and effective as the brand-name drug?
Regardless of whether drugs are brand-name or generic, all medications must meet the same FDA standards of quality. All generic drugs are put through a rigorous, multi-step process that includes review of the scientific data on the generic drug's ingredients and performance. The FDA also conducts periodic inspections of the manufacturing plant and monitors drug quality even after the generic drug has been approved. All drug manufacturing facilities must meet FDA's standards of good manufacturing practices. The FDA will not permit drugs to be made in substandard facilities. The FDA conducts about 3,500 inspections each year to ensure these standards are met.
Why do I automatically receive a generic drug when my physician prescribes a brand-name drug?
State laws vary, but most allow the pharmacist to automatically substitute a generic equivalent for the prescribed brand-name drug (if a U.S. FDA-approved generic is available and safely interchangeable) unless the doctor specifically prescribes otherwise or the patient objects. These laws are actually in place to protect you the consumer from unnecessarily paying for the more expensive drug. Although plans vary, if it is important for you to have the brand-name medication you will be responsible to pay the difference in cost between the generic drug and the brand-name version, plus your copay.
What if I don't want to take a generic drug?
If it is important to you to have the brand-name drug, you should be aware that many plans require that you pay a higher copayment or the brand copayment plus the difference in price between the brand-name drug and the generic version.
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