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Are generic drugs as effective as brand-name medications?

"Yes," says Cathy Salinas, R.Ph., Director of Pharmacy for Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "While generic drugs may cost less than brand-name equivalents, they should not be considered as a second-best choice. Chemically, they're just as safe and effective as better-known, but more-expensive counterparts."

Generic drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and must meet the same standards of quality as the more-advertised brands.

"Generic versions may have a different size, color or shape, but that doesn't affect quality," Salinas says. "Generics are the 'bioequivalent' of brand-name drugs, meaning they deliver the same amount of active ingredients within the same time frame."

Brand-name drugs are more expensive because pharmaceutical companies must spend large sums for researching, testing and developing new drug therapies to address a variety of medical conditions. These new drugs are produced under patent protection, which, once expired, generic versions may be made available.

"Though generic equivalents are not obtainable for all prescriptions, many are available for use as antibiotics and antidepressants and for controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many other medical conditions," she says.

Generics drugs require a doctor's prescription and presently account for more than half of all prescriptions filled in the United States.

"I suggest discussing the cost-effectiveness derived from using FDA-approved generic drugs with your doctor," Salinas says. "At Kelsey-Seybold, our pharmacists and physicians work as a team to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for our patients. And that includes doing our part to minimize medication costs," Salinas concludes.