I was chatting with a friend this morning about the cost of health care. Her insurance company wants her son to use a generic of his medication. Her son feels he can tell the difference between the generic and the “brand name” medication. It got me thinking. As a veterinarian, I am usually thrilled when I hear a medication I like is going off patent and there will be generics available. Clearly this rejoicing is about finances. Many folks don’t have the financial resources to pay for Fluffy’s medications. Anything I can do to lower to cost of treatment is usually greatly appreciated by my clients. My goal is to get the necessary meds into the pet to treat whatever ailment. As a vet I, am the medical advocate for each and every one of my patients. If the human can afford the med, the pet is more likely to get the med.
This is a good topic as we will soon (hopefully in 2016) find ourselves able to buy generic Glargine insulin for our diabetic putty tats. Owners of diabetic cats will cheer across this great land for the lower price. Whether or not the generics of Lantus will require the exact same dose from patient to patient is yet to be determined. Just as Novolin NPH and Humilin NPH are similar drugs, owners may find the dose for generic Lantus slightly different in a diabetic pet patient than Glargine.
In my own hospital, I carry quite a few generic drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly appreciate the companies that brought to life the “brand name” medication. Let’s take for example Rimadyl. It is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It was a game changer for many arthritic pets when it came onto the market many years ago. Let me tell you, I have prescribed a heck of a lot of Rimadyl over the years. Do I have one of the generics of Rimadyl in my veterinary clinic’s pharmacy? Yes. It is less expensive and not one my clients have not told me they can tell a difference from the brand name. Of course, we humans anthropomorphize how our pet patients feel. Truthfully, we don’t get the same feedback from pets as my friend’s son can give us for his medication. Nonetheless, most of my clients are very intuitive as to their pets’ feelings.
The inactive ingredients in a generic medication may vary from the inactive ingredients in a brand name medication. The dosage size of the pills or concentration of solution may not be quite the same as the brand name. There is a chance that a generic medication may not work as the brand name will or that one of the inactive ingredients may have an adverse effect for a particular patient. So many ifs!
Clearly the big benefit to using a generic is cost savings. Generics cans be dramatically less than the brand name drug. The company that brings to market the original brand name drug holds a patent which prevents competitors from selling a similar drug for years. That is the reward for being innovative! Once the patent ends and copycat drugs come to market, the company that made the brand name medication rarely drops the price.
Now this is where you need to be a savvy consumer! Some pharmacies will drop the price of a generic by some percentage compared to the brand name drug. Fewer pharmacies will charge the generic as price per pill (based on the cost of the pill) plus a prescription fee (to pay for the staff to make a label and count pills and such). If you are getting a generic of a medication and it seems pricey, call around for prices to other pharmacies, particularly to the big box stores and national chain store pharmacies. The cost of generics can vary dramatically based on where you purchase the prescription.
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NOTE: Consult your veterinarian to confirm that my recommendations are applicable for the health needs of your pet.