Brand-Generic Interchangeability – Why Generics Are Okay

Generic Adderall

How many times have you picked up a prescription from the pharmacy and when you get home realize the name is different from the one your doctor prescribed? When you call the pharmacy to ask why, they say it’s the generic version of the medication and it’s perfectly okay to use. But is that blanket answer really the truth?

When a brand-name medication loses its patent, competitor manufacturers are allowed to make and sell a generic version of the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures the generic version meets specific requirements before the manufacturer can put it on the market. The new version must have the same active ingredient, route of administration, strength, and dosage form as the original medication. It must also be deemed “bioequivalent,” which means the amount of drug in a patient’s blood after taking either the brand or the generic has to be the same. The generic manufacturer is also required to meet the same quality standards in making the medication as the brand manufacturer.

You might wonder, though, if all this regulation means the generic is exactly the same as the brand. The answer is no. Generics are allowed to have different inactive ingredients and a very limited degree of variability in things like purity, size, or strength. But just because there may be minor differences, does not mean you shouldn’t take the generic version. These differences are essentially the same as the tiny differences between various batches of a mass-produced brand medication, and generics have been proven to work just as effectively as brands.

Generics are cheaper

Generics are cheaper than the brand and this may cause you to question the quality, but there are sound reasons for the price difference. When a manufacturer markets a brand new drug, they usually have invested millions of dollars in research and development, and this medication may be the last in a series of failed, costly attempts. To regain some of those financial losses, new medications are generally very expensive. Yet when a generic manufacturer sells their drug, they don’t need to spend money on research and development. They simply take the existing data and make the medication at a fraction of the cost. Many generic manufacturers producing the same drug also provides competition and lowers the market price. This cost savings is then passed on to you.


If you have a severe allergy to one of the inactive ingredients of the generic, like a specific dye that’s not used in the brand version, you shouldn’t take it. Otherwise, feel confident in taking the generic version and enjoy saving a few bucks.

About the Author

Julie Kaplan, Pharm. D.
Julie Kaplan is a licensed pharmacist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from The College of William and Mary and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has experience in patient communication from working as a retail pharmacist.