What do I need to know about generic drugs?

Who is this for?

Michigan Health Insurance – Customer Service – Pharmacy

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network members under age 65 with prescription drug coverage.

Brand-name drugs come to market with a 20- year protective patent. As this period ends, any drug maker can apply to the Food and Drug Administration to sell a generic, but chemically equivalent, version.

That’s why drugs have brand names and generic names. For example, the generic name of Prilosec is omeprazole. Manufacturer AstraZeneca owns the exclusive rights to sell the drug because they created and patented it. Once their patent expires, manufacturers can make and sell the same chemical formula of the drug.

Testing and manufacture of generics

Generics have the same strength and dosage as the brand-name drug. They’re developed with the same standards, and are just as safe and effective. 

The FDA tests and approves a generic drug if it:

  • Contains the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug
  • Treats the same medical condition
  • Is identical in strength, purity, quality, dosage form and method by which someone takes the drug 
  • Absorbs into the bloodstream at a similar rate as the brand-name

Generic drugs are often manufactured by companies that also make brand-name drugs. The FDA regulates and inspects all drug manufacturers and all drugs sold in the U.S. If any product doesn’t meet production standards, it’ll be recalled. They hold generic drugs to the same standard.

Usage and acceptance of generic drugs

The biggest advantage of using generics is the price. Generics cost around 40 to 60 percent less, and you get the same strength, dosage and quality of medication.

Hospitals and physicians prescribe generics more than brand-name drugs. In fact, they make up more than 80 percent of prescriptions filled in the U.S.

If you want to see what you could save on your prescriptions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about filling them with generics. You can also compare prescription prices when you log in to your member account on our website or the Blue Cross mobile app.

  • Go to the prescription section under My Coverage
  • On our website, select Price a Drug
  • On the app, go to Express Scripts, and select Price a Medication from the main screen; you may have to scroll down

Read How to save money on prescription drugs to learn more about generics and how they reduce costs.