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Caregiver Health

My insurance plan allows me to pay less for generic prescription drugs than for non-generic prescription drugs. Even so, my doctor sometimes prescribes a brand-name medication. Is there ever a reason not to use a generic drug?

Given the ever-rising tide of medical costs, generic drugs are a popular and practical way of staying afloat. The FDA mandates that all generics must have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as their non-generic counterparts-and they cost, on average, $40 less per prescription.

Even so, according to David Chen, RPh, MBA, of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, "while patients can be assured that generic drugs are as safe and effective as the brand-name drug, there are certain situations in which it would be better not to switch" from a non-generic to a generic. These include "when a patient is being successfully treated with a brand-name medication for certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism and seizures. Your physician or pharmacist should be able to advise you," adds Chen, a former executive committee member of the ASHP Section on Home Care, Ambulatory and Chronic Care Practitioners.

He also notes that if a generic is available for a brand-name drug your physician prescribed, you can ask the pharmacist to fill it with a generic. "And if there is no generic, you can also ask your doctor if there is a drug within the same class that has a generic version."