Is there any difference between generic Tylenol and the name brand, besides the price? What about a generic form of Motrin and aspirin?
There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what generic drugs are and how effective they are. Many people mistakenly believe that brand-name drugs are always better and will complain loudly if their doctor does not write DAW (dispense as written) on their prescription.
When a drug company obtains a patent on a new drug, it has the exclusive right to manufacture and market this drug. The company will usually try to give it a catchy name to build brand recognition among the doctors who prescribe it. Its salespeople will also try to persuade doctors about the supposed superiority of the new drug over older drugs that may have been prescribed for the same condition.
Drug patents usually expire after 17 years, and as soon as they do, any drug company can make the drug and sell it under their own brand name, or under the chemical name. These are called generics. Manufacturers of generics must still get Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to manufacture the drug and must prove that the generic is just as effective as the original brand name.
Generics are almost always cheaper than the original brand name, and the profit margin is much lower, so companies try to get doctors to continue prescribing the brand name. Many doctors are in the habit of prescribing the brand name, since for years it was the only one available. For this reason, consumer advocacy groups got laws passed in most states requiring the pharmacist to fill a brand-name prescription with a generic, if one exists, unless the doctor writes DAW on the prescription. Most doctors now, myself included, will rarely write DAW on a prescription, since in almost all cases the generic is just as good.
For acetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and aspirin, there are not only many generics, but the drugs are also available over the counter (OTC), that is without a doctor’s prescription. I am convinced that the generics of OTC drugs are just as good as the brand names and always suggest to my patients that they look carefully in the drug store and buy the cheapest. Look for the brand-name Tylenol on the shelves and buy the cheapest acetaminophen or APAP (another name for generic acetaminophen) that is next to it. Do the same for all the OTC cold, sinus, and allergy medicines. The generic diphenhydramine works just as well as Benadryl and is a lot cheaper.