Generic Vs. Brand Name Drugs

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You wake up with a really bad cold. Now what?

You know that whatever kind of sickness you have is not too serious so there will be no need to go to the doctor. (At least for now)

You get up and decide to rummage around the house for some medicine.

The first thing you do is go to the bathroom cabinet to look for medicine.

To your dismay, you see that there is no medicine left in the cabinet.

It looks like you might have to stop by the store to pick up some medicine.

You arrive at the store and go down the aisle that keeps the medicine.

As you are looking around, you see that there is Tylenol cold and Advil. Right next to them you see that there is also a generic brand. A generic brand with the label "Acetaminophen" and "ibuprofen"  of the same kind of medicine. The generic brand is slightly cheaper and promises the same results.

You decide to buy the medicine with the name brand Tylenol cold because you feel the generic brand is a bit sketchy.

As you drive home, you ponder on what the difference between the name brand medicine and generic medicine is.  

Here is some information regarding name brand drugs and generic drugs.

What is a Brand Name Drug?

Example of a brand name drug. Picture taken from

A brand name drug is a medicine that is discovered and developed by a pharmaceutical company. These companies spend millions to billions of dollars to research the drug they discover and develop. After the company discovers the new drug, they then start to market the drug and file a patent. The company files a patent to protect their drug and to keep other companies from creating a drug just like theirs. (Depression and Bipolar support Alliance)

What is a Generic Drug?

Example of a generic drug. Picture taken from

The picture above is an example of a generic drug. This is the generic drug of Tylenol. For generic drugs, they use the scientific name to identify them. "Tylenol" is only the name being used for marketing purposes. "Acetaminophen" is the scientific name for Tylenol. Generic drugs are the same as name brand drugs. Generic drugs are required by law to have the same active ingredients as the name brand drug. They are also required to have the same strength, dosage, and the same route of entry into the body. For example, if a brand name medicine is in pill form and the route of entry into the body is through swallowing the pill, then the generic drug must be in pill form and the route of entry must be through swallowing a pill. (FDA) The manufacturer that distributes the generic drug, must prove that the generic drug is the same as the name brand drug. Generics only are available when the patent of the name brand drug expires. If a generic drug is made, it must look different from the name brand drug. For example, if the name brand drug was red in color, the generic brand drug must be a different color or might be a different shade of red. It may also be a different shape. If the name brand drug was in pill form, and the pill shape was a square, then the generic pill can not be square. It will have to be different. The generic brand pill might be shaped like a circle. Although the generic drugs look different they have to work exactly the same. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) They have to be the equivalent of the name brand drug. There is a difference though. Some generic drugs do not contain the same inactive ingredients as the name brand drug. This can cause some allergic reactions in some people or may cause the medicine to not work as effectively. Below is a picture from the FDA website explaining more about generic drugs.

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Pros and Cons

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A pro of generic drugs are that because no money had to be used for research or marketing, they are a lot cheaper.

A pro for name brand drugs is you get a trusted drug that has been tested and approved.

A con for generic drugs is that it does not use the same inactive ingredients as a name brand drug. This can sometimes cause a difference in a drug depending on what type of drug it is.

One con that brand name drugs have are the cost. Brand name drugs are more expensive then generic drugs. This is because of all the research that was done in order to make sure the drug is effective. Generic drugs are less expensive because the research was already done for them. Since generic drugs are just copies of brand name drugs, no research had to be done and approved. Everything was already done by the company who created the name brand drug. Also no money was used marketing the generic drug.

Why is this an important topic in today's society?

Generic vs. Name brand drugs is an important topic in today's society because it is important for people to know what choices they have in regards to what medicine they take. If someone cannot afford a brand name drug, then maybe the cheaper generic drug is the best solution to get treatment. It is important to be informed on this subject in order for people to decide which choice suits their needs. If a person is sensitive to some inactive ingredients that a generic medicine may have, then maybe the name brand medicine is the best choice for them. Sometimes someone may decide to go with a generic brand if their insurance company does not cover the cost of the name brand medicine. The choice is ultimately up to the person and what fits their needs.


More information about this topic can be found in the links below. Just click the buttons.


Chordas, L. (2012). Generic Drugs Reduce the Cost of Prescriptions. In R. Espejo (Ed.), Opposing Viewpoints. The Pharmaceutical Industry. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. (Reprinted from Best's Review, 2008, August, 109[4]) Retrieved from

Depression and Bipolar support Alliance (2007) Generic and Brand Name Drugs: Understanding the Basics. Retrieved from

phRMA (2012, August, 15) Generic Drugs: Learn about the Life Cycle from Brand name Prescriptions to Generics. YouTube video retrieved from

U.S Food and Drug Administration (2012, September,19) Facts about Generic Drugs. Retrieved from  

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