What does "generic" really mean?

Submitted on Wednesday May 2nd, 2012

This year many popular brand-name drugs will become available in generic form. Are they as good?

The Food and Drug Administration approves both brand-name and generic drugs. The two medicines are identical in

  • active ingredient(s), strength, quality, safety, and how they work;
  • required lab testing to prove they are absorbed 80% - 125% as well as the original (the average tends to be 96% - 104%);
  • manufacturing standards that ensure consistency and purity.

Brand-name and generic drugs are different in

  • inactive ingredients, such as colors, fillers, binders, and flavorings;
  • appearance, such as shape, size, and color;
  • clinical testing on humans, which is not required for generics;
  • name, because the generic's is scientific instead of created for advertising.

The biggest difference is cost. Generic drugs cost about one-third as much as their brand-name equals. For instance, $50 instead of $150.

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