Friday, August 28, 2009

Are generic drugs really equivalent to brand name drugs?

The topic of generics vs. branded drugs is an old debate that still remains somewhat controversial (depending on who you're speaking to). According to the FDA, "An estimated 44 percent of all prescriptions in the United States are filled with generic drugs." This number will only increase as managed care companies try to push more healthcare providers to prescribe generics over branded medications.

The FDA asserts that "generic drugs have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs." However, we know that recent stories in the news suggesting problems related to quality control of generic drugs. Problems related to generic drugs become popular news stories. Patients often want to take branded drugs. Physicians often prescribe the "latest and greatest" by giving free samples to patients.

At the end of the day, the question regarding generic drugs is rooted in one issue: quality control. When a company submits a generic drug to the FDA, that batch may be a good batch. However, what's to say that future batches will meet the same quality standards? Look at drugs manufactured in China. What type of quality control is going on and how is that monitored?

My family uses generic drugs. We don't take many drugs, but when we need an antihistamine or a proton pump inhibitor, we'll go for the generics. They're inexpensive and they usually work. However, I also believe that the FDA has to improve the monitoring of generic drug quality.

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