We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between Prescription Medication and Generic Medication?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Prescription medication is medication which is only made available to patients when a doctor writes orders for that particular medication to be administered. By making certain drugs available only by prescription, governments reduce the risk that these drugs will be abused or used improperly, and they ensure that doctors will be able to monitor patients while they take specific medications. There are two types of prescription medication: brand name and generic drugs. There are some key differences between these types of medications which are important to consider.

Brand name drugs are drugs which are protected by a patent. Patents are awarded to new drugs when they are released to protect the drug company from attempts to copy their drugs. While a drug is under patent, other drug companies cannot copy it and release their own version. This practice is designed to allow drug companies to recoup the expense of researching, developing, and testing new drugs, so that the pharmaceutical industry has an incentive to develop new medications.

Generic medication is medication which is considered bioequivalent to a brand name drug. For example, albuterol is a generic drug used for asthma. Patented brand name versions of this drug include Ventolin® and Proventil®. Generic albuterol inhalers are supposed to be chemically identical to brand name versions, but they typically cost much less.

Medications sold under generic labels are cheaper because drug companies did not have to invest huge amounts of money in their development, since that work was done already when the brand name version was released. These drugs have the same ingredients, dosage, recommendations, side effects, and so forth as generic drugs. They are less costly because drug companies compete on their generic pricing, instead of being able to name whatever price they please for a patent drug.

When prescription medication is dispensed, most pharmacists will use the generic version of the drug, if it is available. This saves costs for patients by ensuring that they get an effective drug at a reduction of the brand name cost. Doctors and patients who want brand name medications must ensure that prescription pads say “dispensed as written” to alert the pharmacist to the fact that the brand name has been requested.

One might reasonably ask why brand name drugs continue to sell when cheaper generic versions are available, if the two types of prescription medication are bioequivalent. The answer often lies in the differences between inactive ingredients in the drugs. In the inhaler example above, different substances might be used as propellants in the inhaler, and the change in propellant could make a difference in the patient's health. A patient with a corn allergy, for example, might not be able to use a generic albuterol inhaler because of the use of corn in some generic propellants.

Patients may also request a particular drug by name because they have seen it advertised, which is why drug companies invest huge amounts of money in branding and publicizing their drugs. Drug advertisements often say “ask for it by name” to encourage patients to specifically request the brand name, rather than a generic version. Some doctors may also have a preference for a brand name version of prescription medication.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By comfyshoes — On Dec 26, 2010

Sunny27-I know that Wal-Mart also offers prescriptions at a large discount and that is really nice because prescription medication can be expensive.

For example, a prescription for Yaz, birth control pills are $75 a month, but the generic version is only $54 a month. I always try to get the generic whenever possible.

Sometimes a doctor will give you samples that you can use. My daughter’s pediatrician gave us samples of Zyrtec which is an amazing drug for allergies.

My daughter started to break out in hives and I gave her a teaspoon and within minutes all of her hives were gone.

I will say that the drug does cause drowsiness so it is recommended to give to a child that can sleep right away. This drug is really expensive it is like $80 for a small bottle.

By Sunny27 — On Dec 24, 2010

Prescription medication is very expensive. Generic prescriptions are cheaper.

Prescription medication has advertising costs associated with it, but sometimes a pharmacy has no generic equivalent.

In this case you will have to buy the prescription medication.

I know that some medications are available without a prescription. OTC medication like Claritin really makes it easy to get medication when you are suffering from severe allergies.

Claritin has a 24 hour version that is excellent. It dries out your nose and relieves the tired feeling that you usually experience you have allergies.

Also it removes all headaches and allows you to function as though you did not have any allergies.

This product works for a full twenty four hours which is another plus. I know that some pharmacies offer a patient assistance program that help make prescription drugs more affordable. These programs are free and are usually offered to seniors or those that are financially disadvantaged.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.