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As a restaurant owner, you’re used to doing cost/benefit analyses. When it comes to brand versus generic drugs, you hear the arguments for both sides. There’s a comfort associated...
Generic versus brand name drugs: What makes sense for you? As a restaurant owner, you’re used to doing cost/benefit analyses. When it comes to brand versus generic drugs, you hear the arguments for both sides. There’s a comfort associated with taking a brand name drug because the company that developed it is the one that’s making it — and you’re familiar with the name. But the generic version is, on average, 80 percent cheaper. Which should you choose?

What’s the Difference?

Drugs start out as brand-name products. Pharmaceutical companies invest time and money on researching, developing and manufacturing the drug. After receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug is patented, which gives the company an exclusive right to sell it for a certain time. Pharmaceutical firms charge a higher price because they have to cover their up-front development and promotional costs.

As the drug’s patent gets ready to expire, other manufacturers apply to the FDA for permission to make and sell the generic version. According to the FDA, “A generic drug is identical, or bioequivalent to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.”

Because the generic maker didn’t have the costs of developing the product, it can charge a much lower price for it. And when several companies are making the same generic drug, competition can drive the price down further.

There can be a difference, though. Generics can have a plus or minus 20 percent variation in “bioavailability” of the active ingredient — as long as the effectiveness of the drug isn’t different from the brand name. In addition, a generic can have different fillers (inactive ingredients) and colors. In rare instances, a person may have a negative reaction to a filler in a generic versus the one used in the brand name — or vice versa.

It’s also ironic to note that the generic is often manufactured by the same company (or its subsidiary) that makes the brand name.

Some Myths about Generics

There are three common ones. Brand name drugs work better. This is false because the FDA requires generics to be as effective as their brand name counterparts. Brand name drugs are safer. The FDA receives very few reports of adverse events from generics, making this incorrect, too. Generics use low quality ingredients. No — the active ingredient in a generic drug must be identical to the brand name.

The Bottom Line

As long as you take medications under the direction and supervision of a qualified medical professional, there appears to be little advantage to paying more for a branded drug if a generic is available. And the advantage of generics is even greater for those with health insurance — since most insurers reimburse generic use at a higher rate than brand name products. This makes your choice a simple one: is the comfort you get from a package with a brand name on it worth paying about 80 percent more?

And you may increase this savings by being a part of the ScriptSave® Prescription Drug Savings Program. This covers both generic and brands, with savings averaging about 28 percent. For more information, call 800-293-0105.

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