Generic versus Brand Name Prescription Drugs FAQs

What is the difference between generic versus brand name drugs?

The difference between generic and brand name prescription drugs is the inactive ingredients. These may include color, shape, taste, preservatives and packaging. Both generic and brand name drugs must contain the same active ingredients, dosage form, concentration, and route of administration.

How can you find out if the drug you need has a generic form?

Check the Orange Book, a publication that rates generic drugs and provides FDA substitution recommendations, or visit

Do most people use generic or brand name prescription drugs?

Eight of every 10 prescriptions are filled with generic drugs today. That’s because generic versions offer huge cost savings, cutting drug costs by up to 80 percent. In fact, the FDA says Americans save $158 billion on prescription drugs annually by using generic versus brand name drugs.

Why are brand name drugs more expensive than generic drugs?

It can take 10 years and almost $1 billion to develop a new prescription drug. During development, the drug is under patent protection and the pharmaceutical company has exclusive rights to sell the drug. This rationale allows the company that created the drug to recoup its development costs and make a profit according to the Journal of Health Economics. Once the patent expires, other pharmaceutical companies can sell the drug at a greatly reduced rate because they have not incurred the development costs.

Does the FDA regulate generic drugs?

If a pharmaceutical company wants to produce and market a generic drug, it must file documentation with the FDA that it follows good manufacturing practices.

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