January 15, 2022

What's the deal with generic drugs?

Generic Drugs: what you should know.

Generic versions of brand name drugs are widely available. In fact, according to the FDA, 9 out of 10 prescriptions filled in the U.S. are filled with generic drugs. 

But, as ubiquitous as they are, not every drug has a generic alternative. Patents protect many brand-name drugs for a certain period of time (usually 20 years, but it can be longer) from competition from generics.  

Is there a generic alternative for your prescription? Why choose a generic? Are they safe? These are some of the common questions you may have about generics that we’ll answer in today’s blog post.

Why choose a generic over a brand-name drug?

The main answer is cost. Generics are dispensed 89% of the time but only amount to 26% of all prescription drug spending. Typically they cost between 80% and 85% less than the equivalent brand-name drug. 

How do you know if a generic drug is available?

You can ask your doctor to prescribe a generic; however, there are so many on the market your doctor may or may not know if one is available for your therapy. Your best bet is to ask your pharmacist. If a brand-name drug is not specifically required by your doctor you can opt for the generic equivalent.  

Two caveats:

  1. In some cases your doctor may require the brand-name drug, in which case you will not be able to choose a generic.
  2. Not all generics are cheaper. Ask your pharmacist for the cost of the brand-name drug and the available generic version.
Are generic drugs safe?

Yes, generic drugs are safe and effective. Each must go through the FDA for approval and are continuously monitored for safety and quality. 

Are generic drugs more affordable because they are lower in quality?

No. In general, companies charge less for generics because the cost of making them no longer includes the millions of dollars it takes for research & development, conducting clinical trials or developing marketing.

Do generic drugs look the same as their brand-name equivalent?

In most cases, generic drugs look very different from brand-name counterparts. They will not have the same name, color or even shape. Not to worry. What counts are the active ingredients provided by the medication, which are exactly the same.

Pro Tip: You can save even more with drug discount cards 

If you already have a discount card, great! If you don’t, here are a few things to consider.

Discount cards are a great way to save even more money on prescriptions. Like brand-name drugs, generics are–or are not–covered by your insurance. In addition, the copay price using your insurance may or may not be cheaper than paying cash. In both instances–the drug isn’t covered or is covered but more expensive than paying cash–having a discount card can save you additional money at the pharmacist. 

To use your card effectively, you’ll need to ask your pharmacist to check the price with your insurance card and then with your discount card. Your out-of-pocket cost will depend on the best price, cash or copay.

Where can you get one? They’re offered by nearly every pharmacy in the country, including Gifthealth; by national discount companies, like GoodRx; and by some health insurance carriers. They’re also free.  

A couple things to note. No discount card works at every pharmacy in the country. Paying cash with a discount card also won’t go toward reaching your insurance deductible. And, with most cards, you’ll need to take the extra step of asking your pharmacist to check your options, cash or copay. 

We say most cards, because the Gifthealth discount card is a little different. 

It’s actually two cards in one. You can use it like a traditional savings card discussed above, or you can use it as an all-access pass to Gifthealth’s prescription pricing technology platform. 

It works like this:

  1. Present your card to your doctor and say you want to get your prescription filled at Gifthealth.
  2. Gifthealth receives your prescription and 
  • Checks your benefits to determine whether you should pay cash or use insurance
  • Applies all available benefits, discounts, vouchers, etc., to your purchase
  • Matches your location to the nearest pharmacy with the best price and service
  • Delivers your meds to your door FREE

Using the Gifthealth Discount Card makes savings with your insurance or when you pay cash so easy, it’s automatic. And that’s true whether you are filling a prescription for a brand-name drug or a generic!


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