What to choose: Generic medications or brand name?

What to choose: Generic medications or brand name?
March 24 01:00 2014

What to choose: Generic medications or brand name?

Sometimes, name brands speak about product’s higher quality. But when it comes to medications, the cheaper option does the same job as the one that breaks the bank.

“Generic drugs have the same active ingredients, strength, and quality as the name-brand versions,” says Dr. Michael Fischer, associate physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, reports Fox News. In fact, non-commercial meds must meet the same rigorous FDA standards as their well-promoted counterparts–differing no more than batches of big name drugs produced in separate factories, he explains.

So then why did a different Brigham and Women’s study find that nearly half of doctors surveyed admitted to having negative perceptions about the quality of generic pills?

Drug companies have a massive ad budget, and doctors may be pushed into believing that commercial versions are superior, says Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at The University of Texas.

Sometimes, prescribing commercial brands is habit. When a drug is introduced, it’s under patent. For about 8 years, usually only one company has rights to market it. Docs get used to writing those scripts, explains Brody. Later, when companies apply to the FDA to market generic versions at a lower cost, doctors may continue to prescribe the name they know.

But in the years that Brody has spent in the medical practice–and in all the published data he’s aware of–he says there’s no basic difference between the two.

It’s fairly common to have a slightly different reaction to a generic and a name brand, says Dr. Brody. That’s because beyond the 5 percent of a pill that is the “active” ingredient–and required to be identical across versions–pills are packed with starch or other fillers that differ from product to product. And you can react differently to these fillers, he notes. But brand names aren’t necessarily better; it might equally be the other way around, he notes.

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