Skip the brand name meds and go generic instead: generic medications are much more affordable

This article is part of an ongoing series around practical ways you can save money on your prescription meds. Other savings tips include switching from 30-day to 90-day refills and free telemedicine services during COVID-19. 

At the grocery store or your local pharmacy shelves, you’ll see a bottle of Advil sitting next to a bottle of its generic version, ibuprofen. These two twins have the same active ingredients, the same dose, and the same number of pills. 

The difference? 

The bottle of Advil might cost up to three times more than the bottle of Ibuprofen. We call this a “brand tax”—an increase in price simply for a well-known name. 

The good news is that for the millions of Americans who already struggle to afford their prescription medications, switching to the generic option is an easy way to save significantly. 

Are generic prescription meds truly just as safe and effective? 

Yes, they are! In order to get approved by the FDA, generic medications must work the same as the branded version. Additionally, only drugs with proven safe ingredients and reliable manufacturing are approved for sale by the FDA. Generic drugs must follow all of the same safety regulations as brand name drugs—they have the same active ingredients, the same dose, and the same number of pills as the brand-name verison. 

Just how much more affordable are generic medications? 

To answer this question, our medical research team at Honeybee Health performed an analysis of ten popular maintenance medications, comparing the price of the branded version of a medication to the price of the generic version. For instance, for the brand-name drug Lipitor, the average cost is $521.21. Meanwhile, the generic version, atorvastatin, costs on average $79.52

Overall, we found that switching to generic medications saves an average of $237 a month. 

Why are generic medications lower cost? 

When a company invents a new drug, the drug development process (which you can read about here) is very time-intensive and costly. On average, a typical prescription drug takes around 12 years and 1.41 billion dollars for a drug to become fully tested, approved, and available. 

Because of this, when the drug finally becomes publicly available, the original manufacturer is often protected by a patent to help them recover the cost of the drug development process. While this patent is active, the only option patients have is the brand-name. 

It’s only once this patent expires that other manufacturers can start producing the drug (aka “generic” versions), thus creating competition and driving down prices. 
Still not sure? You can read more about how we work here and here.

Jessica Nouhavandi