The healthcare industry is in turmoil again. People are raising the age-old questions about the difference between generic drugs and brand names. And why not, since generic drugs have proven to save $1.67 trillion in the last decade alone, while Medicare and Medicaid combined has saved Americans $115 billion.

With such potent in-your-face savings, using generic drugs seems like the smart, cost-effective way to go for Americans. But the question remains — what’s all the hoopla about?

Swallow the Original Pill

Branded drugs have earned a bad reputation over the years, mainly because of how expensive they are for consumers. But if you look at the cost of developing new drugs, it does make sense. It takes more than $1 billion to manufacture a branded pill in the U.S.

That figure includes the in-depth research, numerous clinical trials, case studies and then all the red tape from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — all before a pill reaches the public. Branded pills are patented for seven to 10 years, after which the formula becomes common knowledge. That’s when generic drugs come into play.

The Copycat

Generic drugs are copies of the branded medicine. The FDA requires that the main active component be the same in generics as in branded versions to make the pills just as effective. Other ingredients — like binding materials, dyes, preservatives and flavoring agents — may be changed. That’s why you may get the same drug by different companies in different colors, shapes and sizes … although they usually cost 85 percent less than the branded version.

A word of caution, however, about generic drugs, as not all medications can be replaced. If you’re suffering from seizures or heart arrhythmias — or if you take a thyroid hormone, warfarin (blood thinner) or lithium — you need to talk to your doctor before making the switch to avoid complications. Also, don’t change anti-epilepsy drugs from generic to brand or brand to generic without the approval of your doctor, as you can end up in the emergency room.

What’s Up, Doc?

When you want to learn more, there’s no one better suited than your neighborhood local pharmacist. Your pharmacist at Asheville Compounding Pharmacy can answer your questions about the appropriate use of generics. He can provide guidance about when you may be able to get a substitute prescription from your doctor. Concerns you must consider include:

  • Whether you’re allergic to some ingredients in the generic form
  • Why a medication may not be available in generic form
  • If compounding may serve as a suitable substitute for an expensive brand
  • When it’s vital that you only take the brand prescribed

Pounding with Compounding

There may be times when a generic or a branded pill just won’t work. This could be due to the wrong dosage, strength, concentration or allergen ingredient in the available medications on the market. In such cases, your local certified pharmacist creates custom-made, small quantities of the medicine based on your doctor’s prescription.

Compounding medications are neither generic nor brand-specific. They work for everyone from newborns to senior citizens. You can get the medicine in the form of capsules, lozenges, nasal sprays, creams, gels and even liquid form that you can swallow or inject.

Need help with compound medications? Check out Asheville Compounding Pharmacy, a friendly, neighborhood, full-service professional pharmacy that’s served the local community and surrounding area for more than 20 years.

John Clark
John Clark
Pharm D.