How To Benefit From Generic Drugs

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Generic drugs can save you a fortune and provide you with safe and effective medicines.

The generic name of a drug is the pharmacologic name of its active ingredient. The active ingredient is the same for all medicines with similar generic names. For example, the paracetamol (generic name) in Calpol (brand name) is the same paracetamol in Tylenol, Zydinol and Tempra, which are all brand names of paracetamol. The color, packaging, and flavor of the different brands may be different, but their active ingredient, the substance responsible for bringing down the body temperature, is the same for all -- paracetamol.

What is true for paracetamol is true for all classes of drugs -- anti-hypertensives, anti-microbials, anti-inflammatory, etc. As long as the different brands have the same generic name, they have the same active ingredient, similar mechanism of action, comparative bioavailability.

How then can you take advantage of a drug's generic name and possibly save a fortune from medical bills? Here's how:

  1. Request your doctor to write the generic name in the prescription. Knowing the generic name makes it easier for you to find other brands with the same active ingredient. If your prescription does not contain the generic name, you can find it on the packaging of the medicine, enclosed by a rectangular border, above the brand name. An example is Paracetamol, enclosed in a rectangle, below which is the trade name Calpol, Tempra, or Tylenol.
  2. Tell your doctor that you want to use another brand with the same generic name. Most doctors will not object to using another brand as long as the generic name and the stock dose are the same. There may be exceptions, that is why it's prudent to discuss your plans to use another brand with your doctor.
  3. Buy medicines only from reputable stores. You can minimize your risk of buying fake drugs by buying from drugstores that verify the authenticity of their suppliers and have a name and reputation to protect. Purchasing medicine only from reputable drugstores lets you benefit from their selection of reliable suppliers and decreases you risk of getting fake medicine.
  4. In the drugstore, ask for different brands of a given generic name. Compare the stock dose (mg of drug per tablet or capsule), price, and drug manufacturer or distributor. You will be surprised with the wide range of prices of the same generic name. You might even discover a drug company producing two different brands with the same generic name, but with different prices. After making your comparison, select the brand that is most cost-effective.

Be confident of your choice of a generic drug. As long as you discuss your plans with you doctor, get the correct active ingredient and stock dose, and buy only from reputable drug stores that are supplied by reliable drug companies, you can be sure that the medicine you choose has the same pharmacologic effect and comparable bioavailability as the higher-priced brands.