Medical Definition of Generic drug

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Generic drug: The term "generic" has several meanings as regards drugs:

  1. The chemical name of a drug.
  2. A term referring to the chemical makeup of a drug rather than to the advertised brand name under which the drug is sold.
  3. A term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without advertising.

"Diazepam" is an example of the chemical (generic) name of a sedative. It is marketed by some companies under its generic name and by other companies under brand names such as Valium or Vazepam.

Generic drugs marketed without brand names are generally less expensive than brand-name drugs, even though they are chemically identical to brand-name drugs and meet the same standards of the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) for safety, purity and effectiveness. Generic drugs can be legally produced in the US if a patent has expired, or for drugs which have never been patented. The expiration of a patent removes the monopoly of the patent holder on drug sales licensing.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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