The Difference Between Generic vs Brand Name Drugs

The Covid-19 pandemic put additional strain on an already tight health care market. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and small businesses were forced to permanently close their doors. This resulted in many losing their health insurance.

In fact, one nationwide poll concluded that 18 million Americans cannot afford their medication. This accounts for 7% of the United States population. Without prescription medication, life expectancy rates are certain to fall.

One potential solution is for Americans to switch to cheaper generic drugs. Read on to learn the difference between generic vs brand name drugs. Explore topics such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for generic medications.

What Are Brand Name Drugs?

Brand name drugs are sold by companies under a particular trademark or name. For example, Pfizer produces the famous over-the-counter pain reliever called Advil. The active ingredient in Advil is ibuprofen.

When this pain relief medication was first developed, a patent was filed with the United States government. This patent provides protection from other companies copying the drug composition and selling it for profit.

How Do Patents and Exclusivity Influence the Market?

A new patent with the United States government only lasts 20 years. When the patent term expires, other companies are free to enter the mark and produce generic alternatives.

The term exclusivity also has a legal bearing on the production of competitive drugs. Under different statutes, drug companies file claims of exclusivity that hinder competition. If approved, exclusivity claims result in delays or prohibitions on the approval of generic alternatives.

Exclusivity periods are much shorter than a 20-year patent. There are different classifications of exclusivity that range from 180 days to 7 years.

A company cannot seek exclusivity until a drug is approved by the FDA. On the other hand, a patent is obtained at any point in the drug development process.

What Are Generic Drugs?

By now, most people are familiar with generic alternatives. When you shop for Advil at the store, for instance, each retailer offers a cheaper generic version. The products are often side-by-side in the store.

Companies like Wal-Mart, CVS, and Target all sell their own generic ibuprofen product. Price is always the common difference between brand-name medications and generic alternatives.

Generic drugs are significantly cheaper. The company that replicates the brand-name product does not have the same research and development (R&D) expenditures. They also do not spend tens of millions on advertising the new drug.

To be clear, generic drugs are not just sold over-the-counter. You can ask your doctor if there is a generic alternative to reduce cost. Some patients use websites like to find cheaper drugs as well.

The Difference Between Generic vs Brand Name Drugs

Now you have a firm understanding of how brand-name medications are different than prescription drugs. All the expensive R&D work occurs during the creation of a brand-name drug. Generic alternatives leverage off a pre-existing formula to offer a cheaper product.

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