Understanding Brand-Name vs Generic Medicines


What Is a Brand-Name Medicine?

A brand-name medicine is researched, developed, and tested by pharmaceutical companies to treat diseases. They conduct clinical trials to measure if the medicine is safe and effective. If the trial shows that the medicine is safe and effective, the pharmaceutical company works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so the medicine can be approved to treat a specific disease or condition. When a company develops a medicine, it may be granted something called "exclusivity." Exclusivity means that for a certain period of time, only the company that developed the medicine is allowed to market it. However, when the exclusivity on a brand-name medicine expires, other companies may seek approval from the FDA to produce a generic version of the medicine.

What Is a Generic Medicine?

When the exclusivity on a brand-name medicine expires, other pharmaceutical companies are then allowed to make and sell their versions of the medicine. These are called generic medicines. Generic medicines must have the same active ingredients as brand-name medicines. Companies must prove to the FDA that their generic medicine has about the same effect on the disease it treats (they can differ by up to 10%).

What Are Some of the Differences Between a Brand-Name and a Generic Medicine?

  • Generic medicines can look different than their brand-name counterparts. They may be different in size, shape, and/or color
  • There may be a difference in cost between brand-name and generic medicines

How Could This Affect You?

When a generic medicine becomes available, insurance companies will often approve this option instead of the brand-name version. It's important to talk to your doctor about the differences between brand-name and generic medicines and your options when it comes to choosing what is best for your loved one's treatment plan.

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