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Wear The Gown: Brand-name drugs vs. generic drugs

There are benefits to generic drugs but also a few concerns to keep in mind.

SAN ANTONIO — Medications can be expensive, and in many cases people may not be able to afford them. When patients are prescribed a medication they may hear the brand name as well as the generic, and get a little confused. 

"Both brand and generic medications are held to the same standards for efficacy, safety and quality," said Darell Hughes who is an executive director with University Health pharmacy services. He says getting the generic can save a patient quite a bit of money. 

"The difference in costs is really associated with a branded product and company has costs associated with research, development and marketing that a generic manufacturer doesn't have," Hughes said.

Generic drug applicants must prove the active ingredient is the same as the brand-name, the generic has the same dosage, strength, and route of administration, it is manufactured under the same strict standards, the label is the same as the brand-name medicine's label, the generic is bioequivalent to the brand-name drug.

Noting the inactive ingredients or fillers is a must before you switch to any generic, because of the chance of allergic reactions. 

"It's good to consult with your health care provider or pharmacist to make sure that the generic product that you're switching to doesn't have that ingredient in it," Hughes added.  

But there are medications where you should stick with the brand name. One example is Synthroid, a medication for hypothydroidism. The American Thyroid Association warns patients not to switch from to the generic because the margin for variation with this treatment is very small. 

"Those are medications where you'd want to work with your health care provider and your pharmacist to make sure that you're making a transition from brand to generic, but it's being monitored so that you're not having any adverse reactions to that switch," Hughes told us.  

Hughes also says patients with questions should talk to their doctor or pharmacist about generics because most are safe, effective, and affordable. 

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