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What are the benefits of generic drugs?

Who is this for?

Learn more about prescription drug and pharmacy coverage.

If you're trying to save money on your Medicare prescription drugs, learn how generics can help.

You've probably heard of LipitorĀ®. You may even be taking it to help manage your cholesterol. But you probably haven't heard of atorvastatin calcium. It's the generic version of Lipitor. It's just as safe and effective as Lipitor, but it can cost almost $120 less for a one-month supply (PDF).

In a nutshell, that's the benefit of generic drugs. They have the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts, but they cost significantly less.

How does this work?

When prescription drug manufacturers come out with a new drug, they patent it with a brand name, like Lipitor. The patent means that no one else can sell that drug for a certain period of time. The lack of competition can make brand name drugs pricey.

When the patent expires, other manufacturers can create a generic version of the drug. They have to call it by the name of its active ingredient, so the names of generic drugs can be a little intimidating. On the plus side, they can sell the drug for a lot less.

What does it mean for me?

Generic drugs save you money. And those savings can really add up, especially if you're on a fixed income and you take more than one medication.

To help you take full advantage of these savings, we recommend that you ask your doctor if you can take the generic version of a brand name drug whenever it's available. In some cases, we may not cover a brand name drug if a generic is available. If there's a reason why you really need the brand name version, ask your doctor to let us know. We call this "requesting an exception." To do this, fill out a prescription drug coverage determination form.

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