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While medical expenses generally continue to go up, your pharmacist can probably help you lower the cost of purchasing prescription drugs. Your state has a drug product selection law that permits pharmacists to select less costly generic drugs instead of brand-name products when filling some of your prescriptions.

What does the drug product selection law mean to you?

The purpose of this law is to give you the opportunity to save money on prescription drugs. Here's how it works. Instead of a prescribed brand-name drug, your pharmacist frequently can select a less expensive generic equivalent. However, if your doctor writes on the prescription form that a specific brand-name drug is necessary, the prescription must be filled exactly as written.

Many people can save money under their state's drug product selection law. Those who can benefit the most are generally those with the greatest need -- older persons and the chronically ill on long-term drug therapy.

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug is called by its basic chemical name instead of a registered brand-name chosen by the manufacturer. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs. One difference between them is the name; another, usually, is the price. If your pharmacist gives you a generic drug in place of a brand-name product, good standard practice and most state laws require that it be generically and therapeutically equivalent.

What does generically equivalent mean?

A generically equivalent drug product is one that has the same active ingredients, strength, and dosage form as its brand-name counterpart.

What does therapeutically equivalent mean?

For a drug to be therapeutically equivalent, it must be chemically the same and also must have the same medical effect.

Are there generic equivalents for all drugs?

No. Some drugs are protected by patents and are supplied by only one pharmaceutical company. After the original patent expires, other manufacturers may be permitted to produce a generic equivalent, often sold at a lower cost. Presently, about half the drugs on the market are available generically, offering you the possibility of savings.

Will I get the medicine my doctor prescribed if the pharmacist selects a generic equivalent?

Your pharmacist is required by law to give you the medicine prescribed by your doctor. However, he or she may select a generic equivalent unless your doctor has asked for a specific brand-name drug as medically necessary.

How can I use the drug product selection law?

You can ask your doctor to write a prescription permitting substitution of a generic drug product, whenever appropriate. You can ask your doctor and your pharmacist whether a generic product will be as effective, and less costly. Or, of course, you can request that only brand-name products be used to fill your prescriptions.

What is the pharmacist's role in drug product selection?

Having studied drugs, their use, and their effects, your pharmacist is highly qualified to compare and evaluate drug products.

Who should I talk to about the drug product selection law?

Talk to your doctor and explain that you want the most effective drug at the best price. Contact your pharmacist and discuss the quality, effectiveness, and the cost of the drug product you will be using. As a trained health care professional, your pharmacist is in an excellent position to explain your prescription and instruct you on how to take it for the best results. If you have any questions about drug product selection, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission

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