What is a Generic Rx and what does it mean?

Rx-pill counter 125General overview description of the term “generic.”

The easiest way to understand what generic means and why some drugs have a generic version and others do not is to understand where the drug names come from.

Prescription drugs are chemical compounds. Chemists name things according to what kind of atoms are hooked together and how they are arranged in the molecule. When a drug company comes up with a chemical substance they wish to market as a drug, they know the configuration of the atoms in the molecule and that configuration usually dictates what the name of the substance should be.

For instance the researchers at Pfizer came up with a drug that was good for lowering cholesterol and based on the chemicals in it they determined its chemical name is atorvastatin.

They patent the drug, atorvastatin, so no other company can make or sell it during the life of the patent. Since most chemical names are hard to pronounce and remember Pfizer, like every other drug patent holder, selected a more phonetically agreeable name for its drug. They chose the name Lipitor which they registered as a trademark. So now they own both the drug and the name Lipitor. No one else can make the drug, during the life of the patent, and no one else can use the name Lipitor because it belongs to Pfizer.

We should note that the generic name for this drug was atorvastatin right from the day the patent was filed. It’s just that during the life of a drug patent the term “generic” really doesn’t have much meaning as we normally use it. When we say “generic” we are usually talking about an alternative drug that is cheaper than the brand but does the same thing. While the patent is in force, for any particular drug, there is no such alternative.

After the patent expires several pharmaceutical companies, other than the original inventor, may start to manufacture atorvastatin at a cheaper price because they didn’t have to pay the development costs. This is what we normally mean when we talk about generics. We are talking about a drug that was made by some company other than the company that invented it. We may start to refer to these other drugs as generic Lipitor (or generic whatever) which is not strictly correct but doesn’t seem to cause any confusion.

When a generic version of a drug is available, it is required by law to contain the same active ingredient and be functionally equivalent to the original. For this reason generics are generally accepted to have exactly the same medicinal effectiveness as the original brand name drug.

So, in general, you can tell if any generics are available for any specific drug by doing a search for the patent expiration date of that drug. If the patent is still in force there will probably not be a generic equivalent in the country in which the patent is filed.

Patents are country specific and may not be registered in some countries. Our med-mail pharmacy at times can supply generic equivalent drugs that may not be available in the United States to save you money. If one is available, you will see it listed in our “Home Delivery Program Look-up Price” section in the LibertyRx Plan website or on this website.

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