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There are so many medications out there from the antibiotic to the medication that helps save lives. When the doctors prescribe something it may be a brand name medication or a generic name medication.

At sometime in our lives we may need a little help to feel better from our doctor. 

What is the difference?

Brand name medication is what comes first.  This is the medication that is patented by the original pharmaceutical company.  They are the ones who have developed the medication and have exclusive rights to it.

A patent is validated for about twenty years, and when a drug is patented it cannot be reproduced during that time.  Patents are given through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).  This patent starts right at the start of research, so by the time the medication reaches the market there may only be seven to fifteen years left on it.  After the patent expires other companies can start to manufacture a generic drug.

Generic medication is produced and distributed without a patent.  There is no protection in producing it.  Generic drugs must contain the same active ingredients or the same chemical compound as the brand name drug.  However the inactive ingredients may not be the same. These are the substances that keep the tablet from crumbling or add bulk to the product for a different look, taste, or color.  The FDA must approve all generic medications before they can be sold.  All medications whether prescribed or buying over the counter go through a process before being dispensed.

The Process with the FDA

The process that a pharmaceutical company has to go through in order for the product to be manufactured is:

1)    The FDA must approve and review all of the clinical trials and information about the ingredients and performance of the drug to ensure drug safety and efficacy. 

2)     They must approve the marketing being done as well. 

The total cost can run into the billions of dollars on a brand name medication by the time the drug is on the market.  Pharmaceutical companies say that the prices they set are because they want to continue funding their research.  Before expiration of the brand name drugs patent, the pharmaceutical companies sit back and enjoy raking in the money they are getting.  That is one reason the prices are so high. 

When it comes time for the brand name medication to go generic it cost much less, but they go through the same process as the brand name in order to get approved by the FDA.  The generic has to have the same chemical formulation that acts on the body in the same strength and absorption of the brand name product.  The generic also has to have the same safety, strength, route of administration, and quality performance as the brand name. 

The only difference is the money: generic medications cost much less. The reason for this is because they do not have the expense, research and development as well as advertising and marketing as the brand name medication.  Generics have the same risk and benefits as the brand name.  They are also required to have the manufacturing plants meet the same high standards as the plants with the brand name drugs.  To ensure compliance the FDA conducts about 3500 on-site inspections every year, which means they physically go to the plant.  It is estimated that customers save about ten billion dollars a year using generic drugs.

Is it safe?

Some people feel that the FDA allows a broad interpretation of equality with the bioactive ingredients being released into the blood stream.  There have been people who have had reactions to the generic form of the brand name drug.  The reason for this is because neither drug is considered equal at the rate in which they enter your system.  Instead of the drug being absorbed over an eight hour time frame the generic may only take four to five hours, and for some reason a persons body might not be able to handle it that fast. 

Or the fillers that are used in the generic medication might react to a person differently.  An example is drinking water out of a paper cup and a balloon.  The water is the same but the delivery system is different, however they both still quench your thirst unless you are allergic to latex.  So there are some differences but there are not many, and most people can tolerate it well.

Do all brand name have a generic?

Not all brand name medications have a generic counter part.  About half of all prescriptions are filled with the generic brand of the brand name medication.  Also about half of all the generic drugs are actually produced by the company that has the brand name drug. 

Across Borders

There are many variations of medication also seen across the borders.  A medication may be a tablet form in the United States, but a capsule in Canada.  However, the same brand name pharmaceutical company may make them.  Prescription drug prices are the highest in the United States across the whole world.  Canada’s prices are less because they do not have the marketing expenses like the United States.  Canada drug companies are not allowed to advertise to the customer directly, like television and magazines, unlike the United States where they advertise everywhere.

The Savings

Ultimately because of the market competition this leads to price wars for both original brand name medications and generic medications.  This is good because it causes the insurance companies and patients to save money.  Generic medications are affordable for people who have no insurance or are on Medicaid or if a prescription is not covered by a persons insurance.  This enables the person to get a medication that will work at a much cheaper price than a brand name medication. 

You can also save more money by shopping around.  You shop around to get the best price on appliances, and why not for your medication.  Different pharmacies will have different prices.  However make sure medication is from a local pharmacy, and not from foreign or Internet pharmacies since you do not know what you are getting.  They are not regulated as well as the United States Pharmacies are.