Generic drugs and Brand name drugs: Which is most effective?

When medicine is discovered, the manufacturing company applies for patency to prevent other pharmaceutical companies from producing or selling the same medication. The patency may take about 20 years, and during that period, the company produces and sell the drug under the brand name to make a profit and recover the investment. With time, the Brand-name drugs become synonyms with the drug.

But, when the patent expires, other pharmaceutical companies are allowed to produce the same medicine. This is what gave rise to generic and Brand name drugs. For example, Alprazolam is a generic drug for anxiety, but its brand name is Xanax.

Most Americans are unhappy with the rise in drugs costs. A survey of 2016 states that people of the USA spend about $450 billion on prescription medicines, and it will increase by $610 billion in 2021.  Even about 90% of prescriptions recommended in the USA are for generic drugs and about 74% for Brand name drugs. Generic medicines save billions for Americans every year. It saved about $253 billion for American consumers.

What is a Generic drug?

Generic drugs are chemical copies of the original brand with the same ingredients. It is available at a lower cost than Brand-name drugs. In fact, generic medicines cost 85% less than Brand-name drugs on average.

Food and drugs administrator gives exclusivity and patent protection to the brand manufacturers to allow them to earn profit from their discovery for many years. During this period, no other pharmaceutical company could compete with the brand. Once the patent is expired, generic drugs can enter the market through a shortened FDA approval. It needs to meet the same safety, quality, and effectiveness standards as brands.

How to identify Generic medicines?

The FDA requires drug manufacturers to list the medicine’s active ingredients and inactive ingredients on its label. While drugs can have different brand names, the generic name describes the active ingredients, and this way, you can identify the generic medicine. The similar active ingredients will have other Brand-name drugs in different countries.

Law also demands that all active ingredients must have the same quality and active ingredients. Generic drugs work efficiently as Brand-name drugs and cost less for the same quality.

Before you buy drugs, make sure you check the salt composition of the medicines when making the switch to a new drug. Consult your doctor before consuming the wrong medicine if you face any confusion.

Are Generic drugs always safe to consume?

Yes, generic medicines are safe to take as they meet the same quality standards for approval by the law as Brand-name drugs. They have to prove that generic drugs are bioequivalent to the brand version. It means the generic medicines work the same way and provide the same benefits.

FDA monitors drug safety. They inspect over 3000 drugs manufacturer around the globe every year. It also monitors the generic medication’s safety after approval of the drug. If they discover any fault with the quality or safety, a recall is issued for the affected drugs to keep the public safe. For instance, if any medication is causing severe side effects or adverse reactions, FDA acts and investigates when needed.

You must have heard about the several blood pressure drugs being recalled and the heartburn drug Zantac. These drugs had small amounts of cancer-causing impurities. FDA issues recall on these drugs to remove them from the market. They also increased the safety check to prevent contamination issues in the future. If you ever face any problems with the medicines, you can report them to FDA.

Trade name vs. Generic name example

  • The main difference between generic and Brand-name drugs is the circumstances of producing the drugs. Trade names, also referred to as the brand name, refer to the name given by the manufacturing company, on the other hand, a generic drug produced after the active ingredient of the brand drug.
  • Generic medicines, however, are sold under different brand names but will contain the same active ingredients as the Brand name drugs. When we talk about effectiveness, generic drugs have the quality active ingredients as Brand-name drugs All the drugs are approved under the strict supervision of the FDA in the USA and equivalent institutions in other countries.
  • For the purpose of branding, generic drugs are not exactly the same in color, looks, shape, and tastes as the Brand-name drugs, and much have their unique brand name. You get the different Brand-name drugs with the same active ingredients, and this active ingredient is what refers to the generic medicine.

Generic medicines go through strict testing for strength, quality, potency, and purity to show effectiveness before the approval by FDA. They must contain the same ingredients and provide the same efficacy.

  • Brand-name drugs and generic drugs do not look the same. They have slightly different active ingredients. Most people are concerned about switching to generic and preferred brands. Some experts have concerns with certain drugs.
  • There is no law to restrict the substitution of any generic or Brand-name drugs approved by the FDA. It is up to your doctor to decide which one is best for you. You and your health care professional can discuss if a generic or brand is the best option for you based on your budget and comfort. If you want to switch from a brand to generic or vice-versa, you need close monitoring to ensure which form of the drug will suit you best. If you have any queries about any medication, you can consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Generic drugs list with brand name


Generic Drugs Brand Drugs
Alendronate tablet Fosamax
Alprazolam Xanax
Amiodarone Cordarone
Amlodipin/Benazepril Lotrel
Clonazepam Klonopin
Clonidine Catapres
Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine ER Adderall XR
Diazepam Valium
Escitalopram oxalate Lexapro
Sildenafil citrate Viagra
Lorazepam Ativan
Methylphenidate tablet Ritalin
Tramadol hydrochloride/acetaminophen tab Ultracet
Tramadol tablet Ultram
Zolpidem tablet Ambien
Phentermine tablet Adipex


Is Generic drug a better choice?

Price is the main reason a generic drug is a better choice. These are a lot less expensive drugs than their brand names. Recent data indicated that the use of less expensive generics improves health outcomes, and one reason is that people taking these drugs are more likely to take their prescribed medications.

The rising cost of drugs is the biggest concern for many people today. A recent survey of Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 79 percent of people surveyed said the medications process was unreasonable. If you do not have any health insurance, the cost may be a big reason generic drugs could be a better choice.

Is Brand drug a better choice?

In many cases, you may be recommended to take Brand name drugs if there is no generic available. You may also be advised to stay with the brand if you do not respond to the generic, your symptoms get worse, or you are allergic or experience any side effects from the active ingredients of the generic drug.

Sometimes experts do not prefer to switch the drugs with a narrow therapeutic index or safe range. It means there is a smaller path between the benefits and harmful effects of the medications.

Your health care professional will do routine blood tests to ensure that you are on a safe path. For example, blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), heart medication (digoxin), thyroid drugs such as Levothyroxine (Synthroid), or drugs for seizures and epilepsy.

It is a personal choice between you and the expert. But, make sure to consult with the expert about your option.

Why are Brand drugs costlier than Generic medicines?

Brand name drugs are the new discoveries developed through clinical trials and researchers. Contemporary medicine has to go through many years of testing on animals and humans to prove they are safe and effective before they are ready to use.

This process takes lots of money, so the manufacturer companies get patent protection from the competition for many years. Till then, they can set any price for their medicine to gain profit from their new invention.

Only when the patent expires several other generic companies can enter the market, and the price goes down. It reduces less than 20 percent of the brand price through the competition.

How can I choose between a Brand drug and Generic drugs?

When choosing which drug to take, you have to consider many factors. Ultimately, it is upon you and your doctor to choose the best option among the generic drug and brand drugs available.


The pharmaceutical company has to submit an ANDA stating that the generic drug meets each and every requirement and standard of the FDA before they approve it. It includes showing the generic medicines is pharmaceutically equivalent to the brand medication.

So, people can feel that the generic drug has the same quality as the Brand name drugs.


Researchers found three main categories from a person’s attitude towards the intention to purchase generic drugs. It includes:

  • Consumer behavior is a combination of a person’s feelings and beliefs about the medicine and their behavioral intention towards the product.
  • Consumer reviews- It includes a person’s and their doctor’s views towards the generic medicine.
  • Risk- It includes the risks associated with the generic drug.

Some researchers state that if a pharmaceutical company, public health policymakers, and doctors better understand the consumer’s need attitudes and behaviors towards generic medicine., they can expand the usage of generic drugs.


The research was conducted in 2017 on the economic evaluation of Brand name drugs prices. It focuses on the top 49 selling drugs with more than 100000 pharmacy claims every year. Of these 49 Brand name drugs, 48 showed regular annual cost increases.

Generic medicines cost less than their brand value equivalents. For many people, this cost difference is the deciding factor if they can take a much-needed drug.

How does the FDA monitor side effects issues with Generic drugs?

  • FDA takes several steps to ensure quality and safety before and after a generic medicine is approved. When a generic drug application is submitted, they thoroughly examine the data presented and evaluate information obtained by FDA investigators. At the same time, inspecting the related testing and manufacturing facilities to ensure that the generic drug is safe, high quality, and adequate to the Brand name drugs.
  • FDA continuously monitors all the approved medicines, including generic, to certain drugs at all levels to supply chain from active pharmaceuticals ingredients to products being sold to the customers are safe and effective.

They also investigate the reports of adverse patient side effects or other reactions. This investigation may result in changes in how the product is manufactured and used. They will make recommendations to the health care professional and the public if the need arises.

  • FDA launched the safety reporting program Med Watch. Here, the patients, consumers, and health care professionals can report adverse severe product quality issues, medication errors, or failures that are suspected to be associated with the use of FDA-regulated medicines, medical advice, dietary supplement, and cosmetics.

Difference between generic and patent medicine?

Patent medicine is a product that a pharmaceutical company initially develops. To sell their medicines, they have to gain approval from the FDA by submitting a new drug application. The manufacturer company offers the data to establish the drug’s clinical safety and efficacy in this application.

The difference between a patent drug and a generic drug is designed to be transparent. Once the patent expires on the brand drug, it is eligible to be made into a generic drug. For this process, the generic drug manufacturer must ensure that the drug they produce contains the same active ingredients as the brand drug, in the exact dosage or concentration. The drug may differ in shape, color, taste, preservatives, and inactive ingredients. Due to these differences, the manufacturers must submit additional paperwork to the FDA to prove that their drugs are manufactured with good manufacturing practices.

Bottom line

  • Generic and brand drugs have the same active ingredient in the same quantity. In many cases, they offer the same therapeutic benefits. Although more research is required to determine if the brand drugs are better for certain conditions, experts say that doctors should prescribe generic drugs where it is available.
  • The generic drugs do not have to undergo the same animal and human studies as brand drugs. Drugs approved by FDA are significantly less costly. This difference in the cost influences people’s decision to choose generic medicines over brand drugs.
  • However, it is recommended to consult about both generic and brand options with your healthcare professional. It allows a person to make the right choice for their health circumstances.
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