Generic Medication Primer

If you are not familiar with how generic medications work, here are the basics:

It often cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a new drug. As a result, new drugs are protected from competition for a period of time after development. (Currently 12 years.) They are the only game in town and the company who owns the patent can charge top dollar to make back the investment they made developing the drug. Once that period of time expires other companies are permitted to offer competing “generic” drugs that are deemed equivalent to the original. 

Those generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients and be “bioequivilent” to the original, meaning that that active ingredient is delivered and works in the same way. I will tell you from personal experience that this is not always exactly true. I respond differently to some generics versus the name brand original and in some cases I respond differently to the generics made by different companies. This can present a problem for many of us. 

The insurance companies don’t recognize that the generics don’t always work the same. In fact, pharmacies are mandated to substitute a generic when available unless the doctor specifically writes “no substitution” on the prescription. In the larger picture this makes sense and helps keep our healthcare cost down. Though, in many cases, even with the doctors authorization the name brand will be prohibitively more expensive. In fact, there is one medication that I take to counteract stimulant induced insomnia that the insurance won’t cover at all, even at a tier 3 price. Luckily there is one generic that works pretty well and I can have my pharmacist get it.

So, you’re not necessarily crazy if you think your generic doesn’t quite feel like the original, or you don’t think it is working quite the same since it “changed” shape and color. (When you pharmacy changed producer.) Don’t be afraid to ask if they can get a different producer, or change pharmacies if they can’t. It’s your body. Be confident in what’s going in it.

Leave a Reply