Generic drugs are medications that include the same active ingredient at the same dosage as a brand-name drug. The US Food and Drug Administration requires that generic drugs have exactly the same pharmacological effects, dosage, intended use, administration route, side effects, safety, risks, and strength as the brand-name drug.
Some people worry that because the generic version costs so much less than the brand-name drug, that the quality or effectiveness of the medication might be compromised in order to save money. However, the generic versions cost less not because of cutting corners, but because the manufacturer has not had to pay for researching, developing, and marketing a new medication. The bulk of the expenses for drug manufacturers come from research, development, and promotion of the drug, and companies that develop new drugs are given a patent. The patent usually lasts for 7 years and allows them to sell the drug exclusively until it expires. When patents near expiration, other manufacturers can request permission to create and sell generic forms of the medication. Since they don’t have the startup expenses of development, they can sell the drug less expensively. In addition, competition between various companies who manufacture generic versions can drive the price even lower.
It is a myth that generic medications are made in inferior facilities or that they are poorer in quality to brand name medicines. The FDA also regulates the facilities that make medications and all must meet the same stringent standards. In fact, many manufacturers make both generic and brand-name drugs, so a lot of the generic versions you may use are created in exactly the same facility as the brand name drugs.
There is also no evidence that there are any differences in rates of side effects between generic and brand name products.
Finally, there is no truth to the idea that generic medicines take longer to work, because the FDA requires that both kinds of medications work as fast and as effectively as the original product. The company making the drug must demonstrate that its medication delivers equal amounts of active ingredient within the same time frame as the brand-name product. They also must demonstrate bioequivalence, or that the product performs in the same manner as the original. The reason that some of the tablets or capsules in generic versions look different from name brand version is that US trademark laws require them to have different colors, flavors, or inactive ingredients.