Can Generic Drugs Do the Job?

With the current economic recession, people are turning to the less expensive generic counterparts of brand-name drugs. Courtesy of Washington State Attorney Office.

When deciding between CVS ibuprofen and Advil to treat a headache, most people would probably choose the latter option; the Advil is more recognizable and seems more effective. Because of these perceptions, expensive brand-name medications have traditionally been preferred over their less-expensive generic counterpart.

With the current economic slump, more people are switching over to generic drugs for their lower costs; nonetheless, concerns about the safety and effectiveness of generic medications still remain. According to a former associate commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs are just as high quality as brand-name drugs. A generic drug and its brand-name counterpart contain the same active ingredient which provides the same medicinal benefit. However, there are differences between these medications, including different inactive ingredients and differences in bioequivalency, which is the amount of drug that is available in the bloodstream at any point in time. For a few patients who are on narrow-margin therapeutic drugs such as anticoagulants, this difference in bioequivalency may be an important issue, as a small change in dosage could modify a beneficial drug into a toxic poison.

However, in terms of overall effectiveness, a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that generic drugs worked just as well as brand-name ones. Concerns about the safety of generic drugs manufactured in India and China still linger, as the FDA has few resources that oversee foreign companies, but in the U.S., the FDA theoretically has the same stringent regulations on generic drugs that it uses for brand-name drugs. So, for those with a tight pocket, it may be wiser to go generic.