Many cancer patients struggle with the high costs of cancer treatment. One way to reduce monthly treatment bills is by opting to use generic alternatives to name brand prescription drugs. In general, these more affordable drugs offer the exact same effectiveness as their more expensive alternatives.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a generic drug is identical to “a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.”
When receiving a prescription from an oncologist, patients are encouraged to ask about potential generic alternatives. To find out if generic options are available for a particular prescription, online resources are also available. For example, the Electronic Orange Book allows patients to search by either the brand name of their drug or the active ingredient present in the medication.
Due to a lag in database updates, the most recently approved generic drugs can also be found at the FDA’s First Generics webpage.
Patients will find that not all cancer drugs have a generic equivalent. This is because new drugs tend to come with a drug patent that limits the ability for competing manufacturers to develop generic alternatives for a period of 20 years. This patent period is intended to reward the drug developer by creating exclusive rights to sales. Once the patent expires, other companies are then free to produce equivalent medications.
For those who are curious as to why generic drugs cost less, it is because the developers of such drugs do not have to cover the costs associated with researching and developing the initial proprietary drug. The patent period is intended to protect the original manufacturer from being undercut on price before a profit can be made.