Have you ever gone to fill a prescription and the pharmacist asks if you’d like the generic version of the medication, perhaps reminding you that it is at a considerable cost savings over the brand-named drug? Or you’re told that your insurance will only cover the generic equivalent of what your doctor has prescribed?
The first time this happens, you undoubtedly have many questions: Is there a difference between branded and generic medicines? Will the generic be just as safe and effective? Do insurance companies prefer generics? If you have, you’re not alone in asking these questions.
It’s no secret that the rising costs of health care services and medications have been affecting millions of Americans – indeed, our economy – and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. However, generic alternatives have proven to be a critical factor in slowing down national health care spending. In fact, generic drug use has saved America’s health care system approximately $1.07 trillion over the past decade, with $192.8 billion in savings achieved in 2011 alone, according to a 2012 study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
However, while consumers recognize the cost advantage of generic drugs, they are reminded, from time to time, of the question of quality and efficacy of generic medications versus name-brand equivalents. Consumers should know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health, requires that generic drugs must be identical or “bioequivalent” to brand name drugs in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.
“The U.S. FDA tests generic medicines just as rigorously as their branded counterparts,” explains Venkat Krishnan, senior vice president and regional director at Ranbaxy Inc. “Generic drugs must meet rigid qualifying criteria before they can be made available to the general public. At Ranbaxy, we have stringent protocols in place to ensure that our products are both safe and effective, and we stand behind that, focused on our philosophy of ‘Quality and Patients First.’”
People are choosing generics in increasing numbers, out of economic necessity and because they are increasingly better informed.Of the 4 billion prescriptions written in 2011, nearly 80 percent were dispensed using generic versions of their brand name counterpart. With generics, consumers have the option of paying a price that is as much as 85 percent lower than name-brand drugs.
If you have questions about switching to a generic prescription, have a conversation with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit www.gphaonline.org for more information and the facts about generic drugs.