When a new medication is created and enters the market the developers of the medicine experience significant start-up costs. They pay for research, development, trials, marketing, and promotion. The new drug is prescribed by doctors and the patient pays top dollar; this allows the drug developer to make money. For a few years afterward the makers of the new drug will have a patent on their active ingredient; no other companies will be allowed to use the active ingredient until the patent expires (no competition!).
Generic medications are copies of these name-brand medications. They are created after the patent on the active ingredient expires. According to the FDA, generic medications must have the same strength, intended purpose, ingredients, effects, and safety as the drug they are reproducing. However, because manufacturers of generic drugs are not experiencing the same costs of production, the drug can be significantly cheaper. Insurance companies, pharmacies, and consumers love generic drugs because of that cheaper price.
In the media there is much debate about whether or not generic brand medications really do their job. Some studies suggest that there is up to 20% less of the active ingredient in some generic brand drugs. This means that if there is 100mg of the active ingredient in the name-brand medication, the generic could have anywhere from 80-100mg instead. For some people, this would not be a problem; however, some patients might really be affected. It would be great if we had a little kit where we could test generics, but of course that’s not practical. Instead, we need to pay attention to our bodies and see how we are feeling after we are prescribed a generic medication. This is especially important if you are used to taking the brand-name version and are given a generic substitute.
Our office commonly prescribes medication. It’s important that you let us know if you feel like your medicine is not working properly. Whether it is just a dosage issue or it really IS a problem with a generic medication, we can help.