We are often asked about the use of generic medications. In recent years, generic medications have become quite popular primarily because they are less costly. Typically, generic medications result from the maturation of brand name medications. For example, every year, the Food and Drug Administration approves several new medications for use. These are manufactured by a company and are often highly promoted. The manufacturer has the exclusive right to market and promote these medications. Many advertisements that you see on TV are for brand name medications. These medications have been researched and developed by the pharmaceutical companies. This is a very complex commercial and scientific process.
Under federal law, manufacturers do not retain the rights to these medications indefinitely. Most brand name medications are exclusively produced for 15 to 17 years. Once that expires, generic alternatives are allowed on the market. Certain companies are devoted to generic medications. They basically copy the brand name and bring it to market. You see this all the time at the local drug store. Many of them make generic alternatives to over-the-counter products. Increasingly, we have generic alternatives to brand name products. Generally, these medications are roughly equivalent. The Food and Drug Administration allows some variance between generic and brand name medications. Some brand name medications are very difficult to produce, and for this reason, generic manufacturers cannot bring them to market or their price is not substantially less than the brand name makers.
In general the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine prefers brand name medications. Medications play a very important role in the treatment of many of our patients. As much as possible, we like to keep the medications' potency the same from month to month and when one medication has several different generic manufacturers, it is unclear if the quality or consistency of the medication is there.
Generic medications are usually not equivalent to brand name medication. Think of generic manufacturers as low cost colas. They look and taste similar to CocaCola but are clearly different and usually inferior products. Like most products in the marketplace, you simply get what you pay for.
At the same time, the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine prescribes generic medications because they are so much more affordable. There has been a tremendous push by insurance companies to use generic medications and they have been widely adopted. Although I always respect the work of companies that develop and bring drugs to market, it is impossible not to use generic medications in day-to-day practice. It should be noted that developers of generic medication offer no support to consumers or physicians in terms of education. Similarly, they do not contribute to research of new products. Generic medications are a way of life in this country. They are cost effective but do not contribute to the advancement of medicine.