It's a question you're often faced with at the pharmacy: Generic
or brand name? Fortunately, the American College of Physicians has an
answer for you, and that is to go generic whenever possible.
"The organization of internists stated that doctors should prescribe
generic medication whenever they can, according to a report in the
Annals of Internal Medicine," says
Julie Vu, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. "In most cases, there isn't much, if any, difference between
brand name and generic when it comes to treatment results. There is, however,
a difference in cost, with generic usually a cheaper option."
In addition to saving patients money, the price of generic drugs has an
effect on treatment plans. "According to the physicians' organization,
people are less likely to use expensive brand name prescription medication.
In fact, those prescriptions are twice as likely to never be picked up
from the pharmacy, compared to their generic counterparts," notes
Dr. Vu. "And if a patient isn't following the prescribed treatment,
that has the potential to cause health problems down the road."
The American College of Physicians report cited a 2008 study of diabetic
patients on Medicaid, and found the percentage of brand name prescriptions
issued ranged from 23 percent to 45 percent, even when the drugs were
available in generic form. Another study cited in the report said that
brand-name prescriptions for 20 types of drugs under Medicaid in 2009
led to additional costs of more than $329 million.
The report encouraged doctors to make more efforts to promote the use of
generic medications with their patients. They were encouraged to explain
the effectiveness of generics and clarify any differences in appearance
between generic and brand-name drugs, which could cause patient confusion.
Patients can also ask their physicians if there are generic options available
if they are prescribed a brand-name drug. "There are certainly some
instances where brand-name medications are the best option for a particular
course of treatment, but those aren't very common and the public shouldn't
assume that generic medications are inferior, either because they cost
less or don't have a recognizable name," Dr. Vu says. "They
can work just as well, and it's important for doctors and patients
to be informed so they know all the options."