On Generic Medication

On a cost basis, the difference between generic and brand-name drugs can be huge, leaving billions of taxpayer and patient dollars at stake. If we cared only about minimizing costs, the share of branded versions prescribed for each of the drug categories shown above should be zero.

Costs must be weighed against patient outcomes, however.

Certainly the pharmaceutical companies that sell the brand-name drugs would argue that their products are superior to generic alternatives and that reducing the share of name-brand prescriptions would hurt patients. (Various studies have found no difference in effectiveness between branded and generic for many types of medications, however.)

This, from the Economix blog. I’ve been prescribed generics for things like common cold bacterial infections, mild acne, and pain, and have somehow found a way to continue living. I’ve paid for brand name stuff too, but I’ve never had that problem where the generic medication wasn’t working, and I had to switch to a brand name drug. (What hasn’t worked for me: homeopathic remedies.)

We all know that pharmaceutical companies make a ton of money off their brand name medication. I once waited several months for a prescription to get approved by my health insurance company, and the pharmacist said if I really needed it, I could pay $600 out-of-pocket for it, instead of the $50 co-pay. I decided I could live without it.

Photo: Shutterstock/Brian Hendricks

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

Big Pharma, you are evil.

The main difference I would say is that generics sometimes come with extra side effects.

The main problem with that however is that people taking generic medication who experience side effects different from the brand name, cannot sue the generic drug company. Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

@redheaded&crazy – That last part’s the killer (perhaps literally): Under current law, as long as the generic company’s using the same label as the branded company, you can’t sue them for failure to warn about risks if their product harms you–and you’d have no claim against the branded product, either, since you didn’t take it.

Mike- “I once waited several months for a prescription to get approved by my health insurance company, and the pharmacist said if I really needed it, I could pay $600 out-of-pocket for it, instead of the $50 co-pay. I decided I could live without it.” I had to do this just two days ago. It was really upsetting. The thing is we can live without these things, but maybe life would be better if we had them. Where do we draw the line on our frugality? What if being healthier made us more productive, you know? Should I make a spreadsheet to analyze a $600/month investment?

Mike Dang (#2)

@Rachel Hill@facebook Well, if the prescription was for heart medication, I’d probably shell out the $600. The problem is that the health insurance certainly should have covered it, but bureaucracy and paperwork stalled it for a crazy amount of time. We shouldn’t have to analyze which medicines are worth hundreds of dollars—this just shows why our current health care system isn’t working for a lot of people.

selenana (#673)

Hmm, I commented about generics on the healthcare uninsured post and it got deleted! Generics ftw.

pearl (#153)

I don’t know about other cities but LA county has like a card you can print on the Internet and legitimately get discounts on prescription drugs, generic and brand name, without insurance. You can even check the prices online. http://www.forlarx.com/en/index.aspx I haven’t had to use it yet but it’ll be good for if/when I do

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