Best Medicines to Buy Generic

As prescription drug costs continue to rise—and show no signs of stopping—consumers need to find ways to keep their medical spending on target.

One of the easiest ways to save on prescription drug costs is to request generic drug equivalents whenever possible. With almost 80 percent of all medications having a generic alternative, chances are that some of your drugs can be replaced with generic equivalents. But how do you know if a generic drug will perform as well as the brand name? Keep reading to learn how generic medications can help keep your medical spending down, and learn which are the best medicines to buy generic.

What are generic prescription drugs?

If you’ve ever been disappointed when trying a generic brand of your favorite food, you may wonder why you want to take a chance on trusting your health to a generic equivalent. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations require generic drugs to have exactly the same active ingredient as the brand name medication. Generics must also provide the same therapeutic effect through equivalent dosing, strength and the way it is taken. Additionally, they must have the same risks and benefits of their brand-name equivalents.

If this is true, why do some people experience side effects on generic medications that they do not have on brand name drugs? This is usually due to different inactive ingredients, which can vary between generic and brand name medicines. However, any differences are usually minimal, and most people feel that the deep cost savings makes up for any issues.

In addition, U.S. trademark laws state that generic drugs cannot look exactly like their brand name equivalent. This means that any generic medication you try will not look like the original brand drug. Because many different companies manufacture the same generic medications, your medication may look different every time you get it refilled. Note that this is due to the pharmacy purchasing it from a different supplier and not any change in the drug’s active ingredient or potency.

Commonly Prescribed Generic Medications

If you are new to generic drugs, you may wonder which prescription medications are the best to try in the generic form. Because of tight FDA regulations, most generic drugs will work just as well as their more expensive counterparts, especially drugs for common ailments like high blood pressure and allergies. Consider asking your doctor for the generic equivalent of the following brand names. The brand name is listed first, followed by the generic name.

  • Cardiac Conditions
    • Plavix—Clopidogrel
    • Digotek or Lanoxin—Digoxin
    • NitroStat—Nitroglycerin
    • Catapres—Clonidine
    • Norvasc—Amlodipine
  • Antidepressants/Antianxiety
    • Xanax—Alprazolam
    • Elavil—Amitriptyline
    • Wellbutrin—Bupropion
    • Celexa—Citalopram
    • Klonopin—Clonazepam
    • Cymbalta—Duloxetine
    • Zoloft—Sertraline
  • Antibiotics
    • Amoxil—Amoxicillin
    • Keflex–Cephalexin
    • Zithromax/Z-pack—Azithromycin
    • Omnicef—Cefdinir
    • Cipro—Ciprofloxacin
    • Septra—Sulfamethoxazole
  • Cholesterol Control
    • Lopid—Gemfibrozil
    • Tricor—Fenofibrate
    • Lipitor—Atorvastatin
    • Vytorin, Zocor—Simvastatin
    • Mevacor—Lovastatin
    • Pravachol—Pravastatin
    • Crestor—Rosuvastatin
  • Blood Pressure Medications
    • Lotensin—Benazepril
    • Vasotec—Carisoprodol
    • Cardizem—Diltiazem
    • Cardura—Doxazosin
    • Apresoline—Hydralazine
    • Avapro—Irbesartan
    • Lopressor—Metoprolol Tartrate
    • Procardia—Nifedipine
  • Diabetes Control
    • Amaryl—Glimepiride
    • DiaBeta—Glyburide
    • Glucotrol—Glipizide
    • Glucovance—Glyburide/Metformin
    • Glucophage—Metformin
    • Actos—Pioglitazone
    • Januvia—Sitagliptin

Why are some doctors reluctant to prescribe generic drugs?

If you want to try the generic equivalents listed above, you may find that your physician is not enthusiastic about prescribing them. Why are some doctors against generic medications, even though the FDA requires them to provide the same active ingredients, safety and performance as name-brand drugs? There are several possible explanations.

Research published by the Annals of Pharmacotherapy showed that 50 percent of doctors surveyed had negative perceptions about the quality of generic drugs. Most of these doctors were specialists or older physicians. Prescribing brand names is also a matter of habit. Doctors most easily remember brand names, partly because drug companies’ sales techniques are so effective. Pharmaceutical sales representatives frequently visit doctor’s offices. They often provide lunch for the doctor and their staff, then leave drug samples, brand-imprinted pens and other free merchandise to keep their brand names on doctors’ minds.

Effective drug advertising also influences patients to ask for specific drugs they see on TV. A busy or hurried doctor may not pause to talk about generic equivalents and simply provide a prescription for the named drug. In many states, the law mandates that pharmacists use the generic equivalent even when a doctor prescribes a brand name. But many doctors simply check the box marked DAW (Dispense as Written) to bypass this law.

If you are interested in saving money by trying generic equivalent drugs, explain your wishes to your doctor and listen to any reservations he or she may have about generics. If cost is your motivating factor, do not be embarrassed to say so. Since cost is the main reason people stop taking their prescriptions—or fail to take the recommended dose—most doctors would much rather prescribe a cheaper generic than have you stop taking a drug you truly need.

How to Save Even More Money with Generic Drugs

If you find that you are still struggling to stay on budget after switching to generic equivalent drugs, try these additional ways to maximize your savings:

  1. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication is safe for splitting. Some drugs, including time-release medications, must be swallowed whole. If your pill can be cut, ask if it is available in a higher dose. For example, if you take 50 mg of sertraline each day, ask if you can purchase 100 mg. tablets instead. These tablets may be available for the same co-payment as the 50 mg. pills. Cutting them in half will cut that prescription’s monthly cost in two.
  2. Consider ordering your medications through an online pharmacy. You can often obtain a 90-day supply for just a little more than a 30-day supply.
  3. Ask if there is an over-the-counter (OTC) version of the medication that may work equally as well. Although an OTC medication will not exactly match the brand name’s active ingredient, it may still provide similar benefits.

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