Sunday, September 30, 2007

Over-the-counter drugs: generic vs brand-name

I've been struggling with a bad cold for the last few days (inconveniently taking all the fun out of my weekend, rather than letting me use sick days and stay home from work, alas.)

Now, my health is one of the few areas in my life where I don't worry too much about prices. Saving a few dollars is just not worth being more miserable and/or in pain.

But on the other hand, I still don't want to get ripped off, and I know perfectly well that most brand-name drugs are identical to generic/store-brand alternatives. It's the law in the U.S. So you just need to read the active ingredients on your brand-name box and then match it up to the proper generic to find the same medicine at a fraction of the price; in other words, paying extra for the brand name is like throwing your money away in most cases. Naturally, I buy generic/store-brand OTC medicine most of the time.

(Also, be sure to read the label on some of the "specialty" drugs; here's a really eye-opening article about migraine medicines which are identical to-- but more costly than-- general pain relievers.)

I do make some exceptions, though. Advil Liqui-Gels may have the same 200mg of ibuprofen as any generic pill, but thanks to their form, they bring faster relief (at least in my experience). That can be huge when I'm in serious pain. So I pick that over cheaper alternatives. I haven't found any generic versions of the liqui-gel where I shop; do you know of any?

And then when I was shopping for some relief for this latest cold, only Tylenol sold a package which included both the daytime and night-time versions of the pills I wanted. They were more expensive per pill than the generics, but overall I would have had to pay more to get two separate boxes with more pills than I needed. Since I'm typically pretty healthy (knock on wood), I didn't want to buy the extra on the theory that I'd need them again sometime in the year before they expire; I've wasted plenty that way before. So Tylenol's packaging approach won out.

How about you? Do you buy only generic drugs? Or are there certain products you make an exception for, and if so, which and why? (Or do you buy all brand-name?)


Deb in MA said...

I do buy generics most of the time. I can't remember the last time that I actually bought the name brand. I've never noticed any difference in the performance of the products. My husband does have a prescription medicine that he swears works better than the generic, but OTC meds I've purchased at Target or my local Big Y grocery store - they seem all the same to me.

MoneyChangesThings said...

My husband and I always went through a lot of sudafed. I didn't mind paying the brand name price, but I really disliked all the wasteful bubble packaging, with each pill foolishly and annoyingly individually wrapped. So I found generic pseudoephedrine which came 50 tablets to a bottle and they worked just fine. They are no longer sold this way in the states so we buy bottles of 100 (they're OTC)generics from Canada.

Pink Elephant said...

I almost never buy name-brand anything, especially drugs.

Mrs. Micah said...

I love generics. But I can't seem to get onto a generic antidepressant. Docs don't like to take you off of one that works. I could threaten not to take it, but that wouldn't be the greatest idea.

As it stands, I take half the dose and make it last twice as long. What I need is to get prescribed double (since there's maybe a $10 difference between 10 and 20 mg!).

R said...

What I can't understand is why the greatest generic drug of all isn't legal. Especially since there appear to be so many avid (dare I say addicted) daily drug users buying more and more drugs everyday. Is this a great example of denial or what? Yes, I meant marijuana.