Epilepsy Information

Brand name vs. generic

Brand name vs. generic

This is a very important topic and there is currently a lot of confusion and controversy about it. The legislation of generic medication is actually different in every state.

• What is a generic medication? Once a new medication is produced and approved by the FDA, the company has a set numbers of years to commercialize it exclusively. No other company is allowed to compete during this time. When that time expires, any manufacturer that follows the FDA guidelines is allowed to produce the drug.

• How are generics approved? The generic medication needs to have the same chemical structure and act in the same way as the brand name medication. It must be absorbed, distributed in the body and eliminated in a similar, but not necessarily equal way. Here is where the problem arises. Some generic medications may be absorbed more or less than the brand name medication; this will result in drug levels that are not equal. When a patient changes from a brand to generic drug, the amount of medication in the body could suddenly change. If it increases, then side effects are more likely; if it decreases, then seizures are more likely.

• Is there only one generic drug for each brand name medication? No. There could be many (20, 30, or more or less) companies that produce the same medication. This increases the risks since each generic will behave a little differently, with potentials of side effects or seizures.

• Does the same pharmacy provide the same generic medication every time? No. Most of the pharmacies will get the generic that is cheaper at any particular time. That means that the patient, without knowing it, could be getting a different generic medication each time.

• What are the advantages of generic medications: they are significantly cheaper since there is no more exclusivity for one manufacturer to control the price, and the competition among producers of the generic drives the price lower.

• When and how to use generic? When the epilepsy specialist sees no risk in changing to a generic or when the patient cannot afford the brand name medication. If the person needs to use a generic medication, the best practice is to talk to the pharmacist to assure the same generic medication from the same manufacturer is being provided, If the pharmacist cannot guarantee this, the patient may need to choose another pharmacy that can do so. Usually smaller pharmacies will be able to do so.