Generic and Brand-Name Drugs

Prescription drugs may be available in two forms: generic or brand-name. Although selecting the drug that’s right for you is a decision you should make with your doctor, it is worth keeping in mind the difference between generic and brand-name.

After all, using a generic, which is as effective as its brand-name alternative, could save you money.

Generic drugs. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as their brand-name drug counterparts. They usually cost less than brand-name drugs and are rated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be as safe and effective as brand-name drugs. For individuals who must take several medications regularly, generic drugs offer the advantages of being comparable to brand-name drugs at a more affordable cost.

Brand-name drugs. A brand-name drug is a patented, FDA-approved drug usually produced by a single manufacturer with a product name under which the drug is advertised and sold. Newer drugs are usually available only as brand-name drugs. A brand-name drug may have a generic equivalent after the original patent expires.


Before selecting prescription drug coverage, you may want to consult the formulary, which is a list of the brand-name and generic drugs covered by a plan. Plans may offer different levels of coverage depending upon a drug’s price, whether a generic alternative exists, and based on how safe a drug is.

You may also want to find out whether your plan includes mail-order service. It’s a convenient and often more affordable way to get medications that you use regularly.