Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand Names?

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts.

An example of a generic drug, one used for diabetes, is metformin. A brand name for metformin is Glucophage. (Brand names are usually capitalized while generic names are not.) A generic drug, one used for hypertension, is metoprolol, whereas a brand name for the same drug is Lopressor.

Many people become concerned because generic drugs are often substantially cheaper than the brand-name versions. They wonder if the quality and effectiveness have been compromised to make the less expensive products. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) requires that generic drugs be as safe and effective as brand-name drugs.

Actually, generic drugs are only cheaper because the manufacturers have not had the expenses of developing and marketing a new drug. When a company brings a new drug onto the market, the firm has already spent substantial money on research, development, marketing and promotion of the drug. A patent is granted that gives the company that developed the drug an exclusive right to sell the drug as long as the patent is in effect.