Brand Name and Generic Medications--What Do They Mean?

March 29, 2012

The following information is from Astellas:

Because medications are a critical part of your transplant journey, it’s important that you understand what your medications are, what formulations your doctor intends for you, and what steps will help ensure you receive your medications exactly as intended. You can start by really understanding brand name and generic medications, so that you can discuss with your doctor which medications he or she would prefer you take as the brand name formulation and which you can take as the generic formulation.

Same active ingredient(s)
Brand name and generic products have the same active ingredients, and are evaluated by the FDA to have the same standards of safety, strength, dosing, quality, performance, and intended use.1 Generic formulations may be less expensive because manufacturers do not have to invest in the discovery, development, and multi-phase clinical testing required to bring a brand name drug to market.

Different inactive ingredient(s)
Any one brand name drug may have multiple generic alternatives, each with a different set of inactive ingredients. And since different generics for the same brand name medication can be freely substituted for one another, you may receive a generic formulation from one manufacturer at one refill, a different generic from another manufacturer at another refill, or formulations from different manufacturers in the same refill if your prescription requires multiple dosage strengths.

What to do at the doctor’s office

  1. Discuss with your doctor whether any of the medications he or she has intended for you are available as generics
  2. Find out which brand name drugs your doctor feels are suitable for generic substitution and which drugs your doctor would prefer for you to receive as the brand name
  3. If your doctor gives you a prescription, check it. If you and your doctor want the brand name drug, make sure the doctor includes "dispense as written" (or similar state-required language) on your prescription

In some cases, however, your pharmacist or pharmacy personnel may not be required to inform you that your brand name medication has been substituted with the generic formulation.3 It is ultimately up to you to ensure you receive the brand name medication intended for you by your doctor.

Steps to take at the pharmacy

  1. Always check your medication before you leave the pharmacy or as soon as you get your mail-order shipment
  2. Make sure that you have received the correct strength(s); Prograf® (tacrolimus) capsules and other medications come in different strengths
  3. Match the shape, color, writing, and dosage strength you receive with the picture below