Pros and Cons of Generic Drugs

  • Posted on: Jul 30 2014
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According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are biologically equal to brand name drugs in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. Essentially, a generic drug is a copycat of a brand name drug (created after the patent from the brand name has ended). They’re also typically a more affordable solution.
Generic drugs seem to be getting more and more popular when it comes to major brand name drugs, including many medications related to heart health like statins and blood pressure medication. But exactly how safe are generic drugs when it comes to staying heart healthy? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of generic medication below.
Pros:

  • Cheaper prices. The main reason so many people buy generic drugs is because they are so much cheaper than brand name drugs. Brand name drugs require research and testing that take a lot of time and money, but generic drugs only need to copy what already exists, saving them the cost and allowing the price to stay low.
  • Bioequivalent. Biologically speaking, generic drugs must meet strict guidelines so that the same amount of active ingredient is delivered to the body at the same time, and used by the body, in the same way as the brand name product.
  • FDA approved. The FDA sets stringent guidelines and performs research on generic drugs to make sure that they are bioequivalent to the brand name.
  • Heart Healthy. According to a recent study, generic heart medications show the same medical results as  brand name medications.

Cons:

  • Contamination. Generic drugs are often produced in factories in countries like India, China, or other areas with cheap labor and overhead. The conditions at these factories have sometimes contaminated drugs, leading to recalls in the United States. To be fair however, there have been a handful of cases where even US based brand name medications had similar issues although probably not nearly as often.
  • Oversights. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, these foreign factories sometimes escape rigorous FDA inspections, dodge documentation of their practices, and don’t receive follow-up monitoring even when serious manufacturing or drug-handling problems have been identified. Usually only one manufacturer produces a brand name drug whereas several manufacturers can produce a generic drug. While the FDA insists on bioequivalence of the active drug, there sometimes can be subtle differences in the delivery system of the drug or non-active “fillers” for the drug. These differences rarely result in any clinically meaningful problem for the patient although in rare instances a patient might have a sensitivity or intolerance to a different filler or delivery system.
  • Mixing up the pills. As brand medications typically have a consistent “branded” look to them that patients can get familiar and comfortable with, generics often do not look as familiar or it is not as obvious what each pill is.  Furthermore, when a prescription is refilled, if the medication is made by a different generic manufacturer and has a different appearance, this can lead to medication confusion and errors or even patients not taking the pills they are prescribed. Click here for more on this.
  • Doctors remain divided. Many medical professionals (albeit a relative minority) are still divided on the use of generic drugs for heart disease, leaving some lingering doubt in this area. Some specific medications including thyroid supplements and blood thinners have had evidence of true clinically meaningful problems when switching between brand and generic or between different generics.

More and more frequently patients find their brand name prescription medication will not be covered by their insurance plan or their co-pay is higher. Often, the insurer will offer a generic version at a co-pay that is less. Fortunately, at this point, the vast majority of cardiac medications are available in generic form with generally no obvious problem for the vast majority of patients.
When our patients start on a new medication that is available from a generic manufacturer, we usually recommend starting with the generic form if there is no scientific consensus that the brand name version is any better. While usually the patient will also save money directly, we all benefit from the aggregate reduction in health care costs. If a patient has been on a brand medication and can save money by switching to the generic formulation or even a less expensive brand of the same drug class, it usually can be done without any ill effects but we believe it ultimately should be the patient’s decision after conferring with their physicians. Some patients prefer not to “rock the boat” and not make the switch. While that is not unreasonable, one has to weight whether it is worth the extra cost.

Cardiologists in Los Angeles

If you want to learn more about generic drugs or heart medications in general, contact our office at (310) 659-0714 to schedule an appointment. You can also fill out our online contact form or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. We look forward to serving you.

PLEASE NOTE: The information above is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be used during any medical emergency. The information provided herein is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, nor should it be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Accordingly, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with licensed and qualified health professionals who are familiar with your individual medical needs. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only–they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Please see Terms of Use for more information.

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Posted in: Heart Health Blog

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