When a drug manufacturer makes a new medication, the government gives them a patent that lasts for 20 years. This is called a Name Brand Drug. After 20 years, the manufacturing process for that specific medication enters the public domain, where anyone can access it. This means that companies other than the original manufacturer can start making this medication, usually at a much lower cost. This is called a Generic Drug.
Medications contain active ingredients and inactive ingredients. The active ingredient is what makes the medication work— it’s the specific molecule that performs whatever function you are taking the medicine for. Inactive ingredients, on the other hand, are what makes up the rest of the pill and help deliver the active ingredient to where it needs to go. The inactive ingredients dissolve in your body and serve no function other than delivering the active ingredient.
Generics contain the same active ingredient as the name-brand equivalent, in the same amount. This is important because it ensures that the two medications work the same way. However, the inactive ingredients can be different. This has no effect on how the medication affects your body, but it may make the pills look or taste different.
Generic medications are legally required to be proven as effective as the name brand. Manufacturers of generic medications submit their products to very rigorous tests— the same trials all drugs go through when they are first developed. Companies can only sell generic drugs once these tests have proven that there is no difference between their product and the name brand.
Rest assured, generics get the job done just as well as the name brand. The main difference is cost. Buying generic drugs can save you a lot of money in the long run, without sacrificing the effectiveness of the name brand!
Most importantly, if you have any questions about your medication or feel that the generic choices aren’t for you, talk to your IMA practitioner. They will be able to address all of your concerns and help find the plan that is right for you.