What Are the Benefits of Generic Drugs?

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

You've probably heard of Lipitor®. 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 much less for a one-month supply.

In a nutshell, that's the benefit of generic drugs.

Generic drugs vs. brand-name drugs

When prescription drug manufacturers come out with a new drug, they patent it with a brand name, like Lipitor. The patent means 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 often call it by its active ingredient.

Because of this, generic drug names can sound intimidating. But generic drugs are just as safe and effective as brand-name drugs; they just have a different name and a much lower price.

Why should I take generic drugs?

Generic drugs save you money. We recommend asking your doctor if you can take the generic version of a brand-name drug whenever possible.

In some cases, we may not cover a brand-name drug if a generic is available. If there's a reason why you 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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Related forms and documents

Request for Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Determination (PDF)
Send us this completed form to request we make an exception for covering your brand-name drug.
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