What is the difference between a generic drug and a brand-name drug?

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In a time when people are trying their best to save money on prescription medications, one of the most common questions they ask pharmacists is “is a generic drug as effective as a brand-name drug?”

For many medications the answer is usually yes.  For example brand-name Glucophage® has the same active ingredient as generic metformin, used by millions of type 2 diabetics in the United States.

Generic drugs, by law, must be identical in active ingredients to the brand-name drug which was approved by the FDA. The dosage must be the same, as well as the listed side effects, usage, safety warnings and strength. 

The FDA states: “When a generic drug product is approved, it has met rigorous standards established by the FDA with respect to identity, strength, quality, purity, and potency.”

Still, there may be some differences in the inactive ingredients.  Inactive ingredients may be things like the flavoring, dye, excipients (aka the fillers or agents used to give the pill its size).  If a patient has a sensitivity or allergy to any of these inactive ingredients they may not be able to take that particular medication.

The other difference between prescription brand-name medications and generic medications is the cost. According to the Association for Accessible Medicines, generic medications have saved Americans over $1.67 trillion over the last decade.

If you are taking a prescription medication and are curious about the difference between generic and brand-name medications, we invite you to speak to one of our pharmacists.

Further information on Glucophage can be found at the following link: Learn More

If you have questions about your prescription or non-prescription medication, please contact the team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784) or visit their website at https://www.cheapomeds.ca. One of the friendly and discreet pharmacy representatives will be happy to answer your questions.


This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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