If you’ve ever come home from your neighborhood drugstore and noticed that the pills in your prescription look different than what you are used to, you’re not alone.
This can be a common occurrence, and a number of factors can impact what goes into your prescription bag. For example, the size, shape, or color of the medicine can change from what you’ve come to expect.
To understand why or when this happens and what it can mean for you, it is important to know about the different types of prescription medications. These include brand name medications, generic medications, and a third, lesser-known type of medication called an Authorized Generic.
Brand Name Drugs vs. Generics vs. Authorized Generics
Brand name drugs are medications sold by a drug company under a specific name or trademark that’s protected by a patent. The manufacturer is responsible for a series of important steps including extensive research to evaluate the safety of the medication and ensure that it does what it claims to do. Brand name medications are then reviewed and approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You’ll often see television commercials and ads in magazines for brand name drugs.1,2
Generic drugs that you may be used to hearing about work in the same way and provide the same clinical benefit as the brand name versions. They are usually made by a company other than the manufacturer of the brand name product. All generic medicines must meet the FDA’s quality and manufacturing standards, and the FDA considers all generic drugs to have the same safety and efficacy as the brand name drug. But the size, shape, and color are often different from the brand name drug. Additionally, generics may have some minor differences from the brand in inactive ingredients. Inactive ingredients are usually harmless substances that do not affect the body, such as dyes, preservatives and flavoring agents. However, in some cases, changes in inactive ingredients may not be well tolerated in certain patients. Generic medications are available at lower costs than many brand name medications.3-7
What makes an Authorized Generic different from other generics is that they are made by the manufacturer of the original brand name drug. They do not use the brand name on the label, but are the same size and shape as the brand name version, and may have a different marking or, in limited circumstances, a different color. Authorized Generics are manufactured to the same standards as the brand name drug because they are typically made in the same facility as the brand.5
Importantly, similar to other generics, Authorized Generics are available at generic pricing. However, to know what you will pay, you will need to check with your pharmacy or your individual insurance plan as there are a number of factors at play when it comes to paying for your medication, including insurance co-pays, pharmacy charges, and savings cards.
“Many people may not know about Authorized Generics and they don’t know how to access them,” says Justine Alderfer, Pharm.D., a Medical Affairs Director at Pfizer. “And, while not every medication with a generic option has an Authorized Generic version, many do. In addition, pharmacies generally only stock one manufacturer’s generic version of a brand name drug but often can order a specific generic if requested. Patients should speak to their healthcare providers about the most appropriate option for them.”
Is Your Medication Available as an Authorized Generic?
To find out if your medications are available as an Authorized Generic, your first step is to visit the FDA website, where you can find a listing of all Authorized Generics.
While the availability of Authorized Generics may not be common knowledge for many people, they are not new. For example, one company, Greenstone LLC. (a US-based company owned by Pfizer Inc.) has been providing Authorized Generic versions of original brand name medications for over 25 years. Greenstone receives its product materials from a global network of suppliers. Its sites in North America and Europe manufacture 100% of Greenstone Authorized Generics. Greenstone sells over 70 of Pfizer’s leading brand name drugs as Authorized Generics. As of March 2020, this includes six of the 25 most-prescribed medicines, across a broad range of diseases and conditions, in the United States. Greenstone Authorized Generics carry the legacy of the brand name product’s years of clinical research, data, and patient and physician experience. Greenstone provides Authorized Generics from Pfizer, as well as other manufacturers, in addition to several generic products.
Find a Pharmacy
If an Authorized Generic version of your medication exists, you can ask your pharmacist if they carry it or if they are willing to order it for you. If they are unable to do so, a pharmacy locator service, such as the one at GreenstoneGenerics.com, may be able to help you find a pharmacy near you or online that can fill your prescription with an Authorized Generic from Greenstone.
“We created this website to help people more easily navigate their available Greenstone Authorized Generics,” says Matt Schroeder, Director of Marketing at Greenstone. “We want to provide as many options as we can to make it easier to get their prescriptions filled.”
So, next time you’re about to fill a prescription, consider talking to your pharmacist or doing research to find out if there’s an Authorized Generic version of the prescription medication. Then you can check whether the Authorized Generic version of your medication is in stock at the pharmacy or inquire whether it can be ordered for you.
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Brand Name (Drugs).
https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/brand-name-drugs/. Accessed April 17, 2020.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Development & Approval Process / Drugs.
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/development-approval-process-drugs. Accessed April 17, 2020.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Generic Drug Facts.
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/generic-drug-facts. Accessed February 18, 2020.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Generic Drugs: Questions and Answers.
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/questions-answers/generic-drugs-questions-answers. Accessed February 18, 2020.
- US Food and Drug Administration. FDA List of Authorized Generic Drugs.
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/HowDrugsareDevelopedandApproved/ApprovalApplications/AbbreviatedNewDrugApplicationANDAGenerics/ucm126389.htm. Accessed February 18, 2020.
- Smith Marsh DE. Bioequivalence and Interchangeability of Generic Drugs. Merck Manual.
https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/drugs/brand-name-and-generic-drugs/bioequivalence-and-interchangeability-of-generic-drugs. Accessed February 18, 2020.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Patient Education.
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/patient-education. Accessed May 14, 2020.