Generic drug or name-brand?

When retailers began offering low cost generic drugs, some saw it as a victory for the consumer. Others asked questions about the difference between the generics and the brand-name drugs.

  • Are generic drugs safe?
  • What is the difference in costs?
  • Can I ask my doctor for a generic?
Anatomy of an epidemic : magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America
Robert Whitaker.
New York : Crown Publishers, c2010.
In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation's children. What is going on? Anatomy of an Epidemic challenges readers to think through that question themselves. First, Whitaker investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix l "chemical imbalances" in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Readers will be startled-and dismayed-to discover what was reported in the scientific journals. Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past fifty years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness? This is the first book to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. Are long-term recovery rates higher for medicated or unmedicated schizophrenia patients? Does taking an antidepressant decrease or increase the risk that a depressed person will become disabled by the disorder? Do bipolar patients fare better today than they did forty years ago, or much worse? When the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studied the long-term outcomes of children with ADHD, did they determine that stimulants provide any benefit? By the end of this review of the outcomes literature, readers are certain to have a haunting question of their own: Why have the results from these long-term studies-all of which point to the same startling conclusion-been kept from the public? In this compelling history, Whitaker also tells the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. Finally, he reports on innovative programs of psychiatric care in Europe and the United States that are producing good long-term outcomes. Our nation has been hit by an epidemic of disabling mental illness, and yet, as Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, the medical blueprints for curbing that epidemic have already been drawn up.
E-prescribing : the electronic transformation of medicine
Jack E. Fincham.
Boston, Mass. : Jones and Bartlett Publishers, c2009.
As part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, electronic prescribing has been proposed as a solution to the growing problem of medical errors due to similar drug names. Fincham (pharmacy practice and administration, U. of Missouri-Kansas City) presents a balanced analysis of the benefits of e-prescribing and concerns over security and costs. The reference includes the latest system options; a summary of the 2003 law; timeline of related initiatives; federal privacy laws for protecting personal health information; proposed e-prescribing standards; and a glossary. Annotation #169;2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
The guide to off-label prescription drugs : new uses for FDA-approved prescription drugs
Kevin Loughlin, medical editor-in-chief ; Joyce Generali, pharmaceutical editor-in-chief ; Amjad Almajameed ... [et al.].
New York : Free Press, 2006.
The first consumer guide of its kind, this drug reference gives patients urgently needed information about drugs prescribed for uses that are different from their labels' recommendations. of full-color photos.

Pharmaceutical companies spend large amounts of money to develop and test drugs for specific medical conditions. The patent for a drug insures that the company recoups its costs. In the United States, after 20 years the drug patent expires and other companies are allowed to manufacture and sell the same drug under a generic name. Trademark laws require that there be differences between the generics and name-brands.

Prescriptions for drugs are filled in various ways: independent pharmacies, drug store chains, discount retailers. 

Some insurance companies require their members to obtain their drugs by mail through a prescription benefits management company (PBM).

The equivalent generic drug is the same dosage, safety, strength, quality, and intended use as the original name-brand. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) put the generics through rigorous testing to insure that the generics have the same ingredients, performance, purity, and strength, as the original drug. The flavor and certain inactive ingredients may be different.

A recent FDA program aims at increasing the number and variety of generic drugs available. It is called the Generic Initiative for Value and Efficiency (GIVE). It seeks to streamline the generic drug approval process and increase savings for consumers.

When receiving a prescription from your doctor, inquire as to whether it is for a name-brand or a generic and discuss why this is the best choice for you. Always check with your doctor before making any changes.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff