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Improving Adherence to Therapy and Clinical Outcomes While Containing Costs: Opportunities From the Greater Use of Generic Medications FREE

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This article was published online first at www.annals.org on 24 November 2015.


The full report is titled “Improving Adherence to Therapy and Clinical Outcomes While Containing Costs: Opportunities From the Greater Use of Generic Medications: Best Practice Advice From the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians.” It is in the 5 January 2016 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 164, pages 41-49). The authors are N.K. Choudhry, T.D. Denberg, and A. Qaseem, for the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians.


Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals and the ACP Center for Patient Partnership in Healthcare to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the American College of Physicians.


Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(1):I-28. doi:10.7326/P16-9002
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24 112015.

What are generic medicines?

Generic medicines are copies of brand-name medicines. They contain the same active ingredients and must meet the same standards as brand-name medicines. This means they must have the same strength and effects and meet the same safety requirements. Generic medicines sometimes have shapes or colors that are different from brand-name medicines. Although generic options are chemically the same as brand-name medicines, they are much less expensive for patients. Many common brand-name medicines have generic options available, but some do not.

Who developed these recommendations?

The American College of Physicians (ACP) developed advice on the use of generic medicines. Members of ACP are internists, physicians who specialize in the care of adults.

What did the authors find?

The authors looked at research about generic medicines. In their research, the authors noted the following:

•Research shows that generic medicines are just as effective as brand-name medicines.

•Many brand-name medicines are being used when equally effective and less expensive generic options are available. By using more generic medicines, patients can save a lot of money without having any impact on their health care or outcomes. In addition, billions of dollars in health care spending could be saved.

•Generic medicines decrease out-of-pocket costs for patients. Some research shows that less expensive generic medicines could help patients stay on their treatment plans. This is especially helpful for patients with chronic conditions that require medicines in the long term.

Why are so many brand-name medicines used when there are generic options?

Some patients and physicians wrongly assume that lower costs mean lower effectiveness, even when research shows the opposite. Some people also wrongly believe that generic medicines do not work as well as brand-name medicines. It is important for patients and physicians to understand the benefits of generic medicines.

What does the ACP suggest that patients and physicians do?

Clinicians should prescribe generic medicines, when possible, in place of more expensive brand-name medicines.

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