Generic Medications The Same? Maybe…

One of the ways many people are trying to save money these days is by purchasing generic medications instead of the name brand variety. It’s been a huge trend on the human side of medicine, and has also become a huge trend on the veterinary side of medicine. The use of generic drugs has saved many of our clients lots of money, from $10 here and there to many hundreds of dollars over the course of an animal’s life, particularly those battling heart disease or arthritis.

At the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic we use a variety of generic drugs in place of the name brand options. For instance, our hypothyroid dogs are prescribed a generic version of thyroid supplementation. Our heart disease patients are prescribed the generic enalapril in lieu of Enacard and the generic furosemide in lieu of a number of name brand options. And recently, we began offering generic carprofen in addition to Rimadyl chewable. Those who want the ease and convenience of providing a medication that their dog takes eagerly have the option of Rimadyl chewables at a cost premium. Those who want to save the cost of the name brand Rimadyl have the option of a generic, and they use their savings on a jar of peanut butter, cheese or something to make the caplet easier to give.

We’re happy to provide these cost-saving options to our clients. Animals that require treatment but don’t receive treatment, whether for cost reasons or any other, are animals that aren’t experiencing the best quality of life.

But what happens when a generic medication isn’t as good as the name brand?

Puzzled? Have you been led to believe that a generic version of a medication is exactly the same as the name brand option? While sometimes generics are just as effective as the name brand variety, others are most certainly not, and still others are in grey area where they might be helpful for one patient, but not as ideally helpful as the name brand for another patient.

A very interesting article was published on CNNMoney in January by Katherine Eban entitled “Are generics really the same as branded drugs?” Here are some selections from the piece:

  • “If you’re a layperson, this is the way you probably think of generics: They’re the exact same products in different packaging; generics companies can sell such medications for a fraction of the cost of the originals because they don’t have to spend huge sums on drug development and marketing.”
  • “But generic drugs diverge from the originals far more than most of us believe. For starters, it’s not as if the maker of the original pharmaceutical hands over its manufacturing blueprint when its patent runs out or is challenged. The patent reveals the components, but it doesn’t explain how to make the drug. In reality, manufacturing a generic requires reverse engineering, and the result is an approximation rather than a duplicate of the original.”
  • “The generic must contain the same active ingredient as the original. But the additional ingredients, known as excipients, can be different and are often of lower quality. Those differences can affect what’s called bioavailability — the amount of drug that could potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream.”
  • “With an estimated 80% of active drug ingredients and 40% of finished medications coming from overseas — in some cases from manufacturing plants that the FDA has not yet inspected — quality can be significantly compromised.”

These concepts ought not be taken lightly. We will continue to provide generic options where we believe they are appropriate within the bounds of seeking and providing the best for our patients. There will be some instances where we will suggest starting with the branded option first, and still other instances where we will suggest not using a generic option when the branded option is helping the patient. The bottom line is this: we want to do what is best for our patients. If you have questions about a particular medication, feel free to bring it to our attention.


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