Wondering how a generic drug differs from a brand name drug? Curious about why there’s such a price difference?

We asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help us understand more about generic drugs.

We know: All about Generic Drugs

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug is a copy of a brand-name drug. It has the same dosage, safety, and strength. It is intended for the same use as a brand-name drug, is taken the same way, is the same quality and performs the same way.

How about safety?

A generic drug is as safe as its brand-name counterpart. Some generics use the same active ingredients and are shown to work the same way in the body. Generic drugs have the same risks and the same benefits as brand-name drugs.

How about effectiveness?

Generic drugs are as strong as brand-name drugs and work in the same amount of time.

Why are generics cheaper?

Generic drugs can only be sold after the patent on a brand-name drug expires. The patent period is designed to allow the manufacturer of the brand-name drug to recoup the research costs for developing the drug. Once the patent expires (usually after 20 years), generic manufactures can apply to the FDA to sell the drug, creating a competitive market and lowering prices.

Why do generics look different from brand-name drugs?

U.S. trademark laws prohibit generics from looking exactly like their brand-name counterparts, so colors, flavors and other inactive ingredients may be different.

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