10 Items You Should Always Buy Generic

All drugs, whether brand-name or generic, are held to the same FDA standards.
All drugs, whether brand-name or generic, are held to the same FDA standards.

The myth of branding is very important in health and family care, because marketing is all about making us feel like we desperately need a given brand over all the others -- and when your family's health is at stake, they've got you right where they want you.

But drugs -- both over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications -- have some of the most exacting regulations for creating and selling generic versions. The FDA demands that all medications have the same active ingredient dosage and safety measures as the brand-name meds they're replacing.

For store-brand pain relievers, and allergy and antacid medications, you've probably noticed the wide discrepancy in pricing. Perhaps it even scared you away! But in fact, the FDA is watching out for you, the drug quality is identical between the two products and the savings can sometimes be shocking.

The reason is that a drug patent, which covers the active ingredient of a drug, typically lasts only 20 years. This clock starts ticking before the drug ever goes into clinical trials, which take several exhaustive years before the drug is ever put on the market.

That means that when a new drug comes out, it might only be under patent for seven to 12 more years. When that patent period ends, the active ingredient is up for grabs, and the companies producing the new generic version can afford to give you great pricing, because they didn't spend anything on developing and marketing the original drug in the first place [source: FDA Consumer Resources].

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