Navigating the System

Empower yourself as a patient, and learn how to get the most out of your benefits. Each plan is different, so this section of our guide will help you understand what it is that you should look for when you receive your insurance information.  This section will help you navigate the health care system when you need care.

Topic Area: Prescription drugs

What’s the difference between generic and brand-name drugs?


The main difference between generic drugs and their brand-name counterparts is that generic drugs are typically much less expensive.

Generic drugs are just as effective as brand-name drugs

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs work the same as brand-name drugs. Learn more.  

A generic version of a brand-name drug will have:

  • The same active ingredient (the drug listed on the label)
  • The same strength
  • The same use indications
  • The same form (such as a tablet or an injectable)
  • The same route of administration (such as oral or topical)
  • The same strict manufacturing standards as the brand-name drug
  • Acceptable inactive ingredients

If generic drugs are just as effective as brand-name drugs, why are they less expensive?

Brand-name drugs are usually protected by patents, which prevent other companies from selling generic versions. When a patent expires, other companies can make generic versions. Makers of generic drugs do not have to pay for research and development, and can offer the generic version at a lower price than the brand-name drug.

The list of covered generic and brand name drugs (known as the formulary) is different from plan to plan. You can learn how to find out which medications are covered by your insurance. Learn more


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