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Going generic: Saving money on prescriptions with FDA-approved medication

Polls show drug prices and the cost of health care is the number one concern for most Americans right now.

TOLEDO, Ohio — In recent years, prescription drug prices have been skyrocketing, leaving many vulnerable people having to choose between medication and food.

But there continues to be an alternative where you can have both and save money doing so: generics.

"According to the FDA, the term “authorized generic” drug is most commonly used to describe an approved brand name drug that is marketed without the brand name on its label. Other than the fact that it does not have the brand name on its label, it is the exact same drug product as the branded product.

"There's no therapeutic difference between a brand-name drug and the generic counterpart. The critical difference is the cost of that drug."

Dan Leonard, President of the Association for Accessible Medicines, says there's a simple reason those white labels are so much more affordable than the name brands.

"So generic medicines are safe and effective and they're inspected by the FDA and approved by the FDA, and once a patent expires on a brand name drug that's when generic competition is allowed in the market and that's where we see a significant savings."

Name brands may break the bank but here in the US, we actually pay less for generic drugs than other countries. 

The average generic co-pay is just under $7 versus $55 for brand name drugs and 80% of generic co-pays are less than $10.

Leonard says that although nearly all prescriptions filled are for generics, they account for just a fraction of the overall cost of prescriptions in the U.S.

"9 out of 10 prescriptions filled out in this country are for generic medicines, yet generics only account for 18% of the overall spend on medications."

Of course, with a deal like that, some people tend to be a bit skeptical that they may not be getting the quality of a name brand in a generic pill, but Leonard suggests you relax and listen to your doctor’s advice.

"Physicians are comfortable writing prescriptions for the approved generics, pharmacists are comfortable filling the prescription for that generic, and patients should be comfortable and confident in the medicines that they're taking."

For a list of authorized generic drugs, you can check out the FDA’s website.