The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires generic drug manufacturers to prove that generic drugs have the identical active ingredients and work the same way in the body as the brand-name version. FDA-approved generic drugs are as safe and effective as brand-name drugs. By law, a generic drug must look different (different shape or color) from its brand-name equivalent—even when they're manufactured by the same company.
Here's how to request and fill your prescription for a generic drug:
- Ask your doctor about generics when your prescription is being written. Make sure your doctor knows that you can save by using generics. Most doctors will write prescriptions to allow generic substitutions when they are available.
- If you're taking a brand-name drug, it may have a generic equivalent or a generic alternative. An equivalent contains exactly the same active ingredients. An alternative is a different drug that can be used to treat your condition.
- If you choose a brand-name drug when a generic equivalent is available, you'll pay 10% coinsurance on the cost of the generic PLUS the difference in cost between the generic and the brand- name drug. You can save money just by asking your doctor to prescribe a generic drug or allow generic substitution.
- If your doctor prescribes a generic drug that you'll take long-term, request a second prescription for a 30-day supply to fill at your local pharmacy. Also ask for a prescription for a 90-day supply to use the mail-order service. Generic drugs are free when you order them through the mail.
- You may fill your prescription for a generic drug at your retail pharmacy. When you do, you'll pay 10% coinsurance.
- If your generic drug is a maintenance medication that you take over the long term, you'll pay 20% of the cost after your first three fills at retail pharmacy. Why not switch to mail and get it for free?