Harvard Men's Health Watch

Generic Lipitor: Fight or switch?

Q. Recently, my insurance company switched my cholesterol medication from Lipitor to generic atorvastatin. Are generic medications as good as brand-name drugs?

A. You can take your generic medications with the same confidence that you take the brand-name versions. The FDA requires that a generic medication contain the same active ingredient as its brand-name counterpart. It must contain the same amount of medication and be equally absorbed by the body.

Many people feel that generics must be "cutting corners" since they are cheaper alternatives to the name brands. However, generic manufacturers are not allowed to skimp on the active ingredients. Also, they can achieve substantial cost savings—and pass them on to you—because they do not need to fund new research to prove that their products are safe and effective, because the original brand manufacturer has already taken care of that. Generic makers also do not need to invest in marketing to promote the new drug to doctors or buy advertising to keep it in the public's eye.

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