Are Generic Pet Meds the Same as Brand Name?

Are Generic Pet Meds the Same as Brand Name?

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Dr. Debra,


I read an article that said one way to save money on my dog’s care is to use generic drugs. Can you tell me the difference between generic and brand name pet meds?


Leslie F., Little Rock, AR

Hi Leslie,

Great question! Sure, I’m happy to explain the difference between generic and brand name pet medications.

A simple answer is they are mostly the same. A generic drug has the same active ingredients as a brand name drug but a different name.

When a drug is developed and brought to the market, years of research and testing are required. Once enough research on the drug’s mechanism, safety, and clinical testing is documented, the drug company seeks approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that compound. Research, testing, and development can cost millions and can take years. Only a small percentage of drugs that are researched are approved by the FDA and become available to the public.

Once a drug is under development, the company protects it with a patent. Doing so protects the drug company by only permitting that company to manufacture and sell that drug for a set length of time. Most drug patents are for 20 years but this period can vary with the drug and the country. Research and approval can take years, so the effective patent period averages from 7 to 12 years.

Brand name drugs are expensive because of the costs associated with research and development. A company can research and try to develop dozens or even hundreds of drugs and have only one approved successfully.

After the patent period wears off on a drug, the drug can be produced by other manufactures as a generic version. The FDA creates standards for the production of generic drugs. For example, according to the official guidelines, a generic drug has the same “identify, strength, quality, purity, and potency” of a brand name drug. The generic drug is also required to the “same active ingredient, strength, dosage, form, and route of administration as the brand name product.” However, generic drugs do not need to contain the same inactive ingredients as the brand name product. The FDA allows very little variability between the generic and brand name versions, and this is one way that the two can differ.

Generic versions of drugs are generally 80% to 85% less expensive than brand name versions. The reason for this is that they generic manufacturers do not have the costly expensive of research and development, clinical trials, advertising, and marketing. In addition, several manufacturers may create generic versions of popular drugs at once, which cause competition in the marketplace that can further lower the price.

According to the FDA, approximately 80% of all prescriptions filled in the U.S. are generic drugs. This number is expected to rise, as the patents on several popular drugs are being lifted in 2015, and manufacturers will soon be able to produce generic versions.

Here are some examples of generic drugs and their brand name counterparts:

 Generic Name  Brand Name Drug Action 
 Famotidine  Pepcid  Decreases stomach acid
 Metformin  Glucophage  Oral diabetes medication commonly used
 in  humans
 Metoprolol  Lopressor  Blood pressure medication commonly used
 in  humans
 Diphenhydramine  Benadryl  For allergies
 Cephalexin  Keflex  Antibiotic
 Enrofloxacin  Baytril  Antibiotic
 Cetirizine  Zyrtec  For allergies

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Some pet owner express concern that a generic drug may not work as well as a brand name drug. With only a few exceptions, the generic drugs are believed to work as well as the brand name (one exception is the thyroid medication Soloxine). The FDA cites a study that “evaluated the results of 38 published clinical trials that compared cardiovascular generic drugs to their brand name counterparts. There was no evidence that brand name heart drugs worked any better than generic heart drugs”. The overall conclusion is that the generic version works as well as the brand name drug version.

Bear in mind that inactive ingredients may differ between the generic and brand name versions of drugs, and that these ingredients may affect the drugs in other ways. For example, a sweet-flavored coating may make a brand name drug more palatable than its uncoated generic version.

I hope this answers your question about the use of brand name and generic pet meds.

With warm regards,

Dr. Debra

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