Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
The high cost of some prescription drugs continues to trigger media attention. These stories tend to focus on chronically ill patients who require lifetime use of one or more drugs, or on older folks whose fixed income is challenged when they need several drugs to maintain health. I choose not to get into a philosophical discussion about the reasons why costs for many drugs are often higher in the US than in other countries. Even I find myself comparing the cost for a prescription in the US to what I'd have to pay for the same medication in Mexico or Canada. So far, most my needs have been met by using a generic equivalent to a brand-name product.
New drugs are developed and released under patent protection. This protection is, in effect, in exchange for the investment dedicated to research, development, marketing and promotion by a pharmaceutical company if the effects of the drug warrant entry into the market. When the patent expires, manufacturers can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions which cannot look the same as the original but must use the same active ingredients, work the same way as the original drugs and have the same risks and benefits as their brand-name counterparts. These manufacturers, who don't have the costs listed above, are also in competition with one another so the price of generic equivalents drop. Ironically, brand-name firms are responsible for manufacturing approximately 50 percent of generic drugs.
When your doctor writes on the prescription form that a specific brand name drug is required, your pharmacist cannot substitute a generic drug. However, your pharmacist can talk to your physician about alternatives. It's difficult to keep up with the daily changes in the drug market so your physician may not be aware of a lower cost alternative.
If you find yourself considering alternative sources for your over the counter or prescription drug there are a few guidelines you should consider.
Depending on your prescription needs, the savings you reap from generic equivalents can be significant. Before you shop elsewhere, consult with your pharmacist to compare and evaluate your choices so you get the right medication at the best possible price.
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