Save Money with Generics

  • Generic drugs may not have a fancy name like brand-name drugs, but they have been proven to be as effective and safe. They may save you money too, depending on the brand-name medicine you may be currently taking.

    They look different, but they are made with the same active ingredients

    All generics, by law, must have the same active ingredients as their brand-named equivalents. So they work the same way in your body as do brand-name drugs. Their only differences are the colors, flavors, and certain other inactive ingredients.

    The FDA puts generic drugs through the wringer for effectiveness and safety

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates generic drugs just as it does brand-name drugs to ensure generics offer the same level of quality, strength, effectiveness, and purity as the brand-name versions. The FDA puts generic drugs through a rigorous review process to make sure that they perform the same way brand-name drugs do. And perform safely, too.

    They cost less than brand-name drugs for good reason

    Brand-name drug makers spend a lot of money on research, development, advertising and promotion to create and sell their drugs. These are expenses that generics do not have to worry about.

    For some of our newer plans, generic drugs are now split into two categories-preferred generics and non-preferred generics. Long-time Premera customers may find that the generic drug they've been taking is now classified as a nonpreferred generic, and costs more. Preferred generics will be the least expensive option.

    Pay for the medicine, not the name

    As you can see when you compare the prices of some of the most-prescribed brand-name drugs versus generics, you can save money.

    Brand Name Generic
    Ambien (insomnia) $335 Zolpidem $28
    Cymbalta (depression) $295 Duloxetine $117
    Lipitor (cholesterol) $178 Atorvastatin $37
    Singulair (asthma) $164 Montelukast $44
    Topomax (seizure) $662 Topiramate $59

    This information is based on January 2014 through December 2014 Premera prescription claims data and reflects average costs for a 30-day supply. The table is for illustrative purposes only and may not represent actual member cost shares.

    For more information, sign in and go to MyPharmacyPlus and see how much you can save when you choose a generic drug.

    You can save money by buying most generic drugs

    This is the case whether you fill a one-time prescription or are taking a brand-name drug for an ongoing condition like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. You can save money with a lower copay, depending on your health plan. Or, if your health plan does not cover certain prescriptions, you can save on the price difference between the brand-name drug and the generic.

    The average Premera member can save up to $222 a year by using a generic drug instead of a brand-name drug.

    That's a lot of money to keep in your pocket.

    Talk with your doctor about generic options if you want a less expensive drug

    Your doctor is your best source of information when it comes to your medicine and how to save money on prescription drugs. And there's no better time to speak with him or her about a prescription than when your doctor is writing one for you.

    If your prescription is for a brand-name drug, ask your doctor if there is a generic version available that you can use. Your plan may offer preferred and non-preferred generics. If so, check for a preferred generic for even greater savings. There's at least one generic available in most drug classes. So chances are, you'll be able to make the switch.

    What are generic drugs?

    Generic drugs are drugs that can be used in place of brand-name drugs because they contain the same ingredients and are available in the same strength and dosage. They are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and almost always cost less than brand-name drugs.

    How can I get generic drugs?

    Generic drugs can be overlooked because they are not advertised like brand-name drugs. To get a generic drug, ask your provider or pharmacist:

    • Is this brand-name drug available in a generic?
    • Is there a low-cost generic available within this group of drugs that works the same?

    Are generic drugs as safe and effective as brand-name drugs?

    Yes. According to the FDA, generic drugs are just as safe and effective as brand-name drugs. They work the same way in the body and are not known to cause any more side effects than brand-name drugs. With generics, you receive the same quality as brand-name drugs.

    Does every brand-name drug have a generic equivalent?

    Of the more than 10,000 brand-name drugs listed in the FDA’s Orange Book - which identifies generic equivalents - there are more than 7,600 generic equivalents. In cases where a generic equivalent is not available, there may be a generic in the same group of drugs that will work just as well.

    Why do brand-name and generic drugs look different?

    They look different because the generic companies make the pills in different shapes and colors. Nevertheless, the active chemical ingredients - which make the drug work - are identical.

    How much money will I save by using generic drugs?

    With brand-name drugs, you end up paying more out of pocket. There are direct cost savings to you at the pharmacy because generics almost always cost less than brand-name drugs. On average, a member can save up to $222 a year by using a generic drug instead of a brand-name drug.

    How can generic drugs be less expensive?

    Brand-name drug companies pay a lot to research, develop, advertise, and market their product. When a brand-name drug comes off patent (about 10 years after marketing) other manufacturers can make and market drugs with the same ingredients. They don't have to repeat expensive research or marketing the brand-name company has done, so the savings are passed on to you. Talk with your provider about generic options.

    What is the best source of information about generic drugs?

    The FDA provides information about every approved drug on its website, including what the drug is used for, side effects, and usage warnings.

    What can I do if there is no generic equivalent available?

    Often a generic alternative is available that may work just the same as your brand-name drug. Ask your provider if a generic alternative is available in the same drug category as the brand-name drug.