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Prescription medications: generic vs. brand name drugs

Here’s what you need to know about generic vs. brand name drugs and your benefits plan.
Are generics the same as brand name drugs?

Generic drugs are every bit as safe and effective as their brand name comparator. In fact, generic and brand name comparator drugs have the same active ingredients and are considered bioequivalent. This means that they have the same therapeutic effect(s).
Generic drugs are simply unbranded pharmaceutical products of their brand name comparator.
Why do generic drugs cost less?
Generic drug companies don’t have the expense of researching and developing new drugs. This means that generic drugs typically cost less because the effectiveness of their brand name comparator has already been established through clinical testing and patient use. As a result, Health Canada and regulatory bodies around the world agree it’s then unnecessary to repeat the same level of testing for the generic version of the drug. The savings are substantial and are passed along to you in the form of lower prices.
Choosing generic over brand name drugs
Not all brand drugs are available in generic form. Brand drugs are developed under patent protection, so generic drug companies must apply to Health Canada to sell a generic version of a drug after the brand drug’s patent(s) expires.
The best way to find out if a prescription drug is available in a generic version is to ask your health-care provider or pharmacist. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • Is this prescription for a generic drug?
  • Is there a generic version of my drug available?
  • Can I substitute my medication with the generic?
  • How much will I save under my prescription plan if I switch to a generic?

You can also use My Drug Plan to find out if a brand drug has a generic version that is lower cost. My drug plan is a user-friendly online tool to help you manage your out-of-pocket expense especially if you have a mandatory generic drug plan. You will also have access to a drug library and be notified if a drug is subject to prior authorization.
Follow these steps to use My drug plan.

Remember that when your doctor prescribes a drug and your pharmacist fills the prescription, let them know that your plan may only reimburse the cost of the lowest priced alternative (also known as mandatory generic substitution). This will provide you the best value for your dollar, while helping to manage the overall cost of your benefits plan.
If you have a question about your drug coverage under your benefits plan, consult your benefits booklet or contact an OTIP Benefits Services at 1-866-783-6847.
Related articles: What is mandatory generic substitution

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