The Generic Drug Law was passed to ensure that consumers receive the savings from using a lower cost generic drug selected by a pharmacist in place of the prescribed brand name drug . Your pharmacist is required to make this selection when he or she has a lower cost generic drug in stock unless you or your doctor prefer a brand name and choose not to have a substitution. By using generic drugs, your savings can be substantial.

What is a brand name drug?

A brand name drug is one that carries a trademark that only one company can use. Every brand name drug also has an official generic name which is given to it by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug is one that is sold under its chemical or official name rather than an advertised brand name.

Are generic drugs cheaper? Almost always. Generic drugs are generally not as heavily advertised as brand name drugs. Manufacturers sell at lower prices because they do little or no advertising and provide no costly samples, packaging, or other frills.

Are generic drugs safe? Yes. All drugs, whether sold under their brand name or generic name, must meet the same standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety, strength, purity and effectiveness. Your pharmacist can sell only generic drugs that are therapeutically equivalent to brand name drugs. That means that the drug must have the same active ingredient, strength, quantity, and dosage as the brand name drug your doctor listed on the prescription.

Am I getting what the doctor ordered? Yes. The drugs are approved by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. Since the drugs are the same, the only difference is usually the price.

Do brand name drugs and generic drugs always look alike? Not necessarily. They may be packaged differently, may not be the same color, or may not taste the same.

How can I benefit from the generic drug law?

Ask your physician to write the prescription for a generic product. In some instances, your physician may not wish to have a generic selection made. If that is the case, he or she must write "Do Not Substitute" on the prescription. Your pharmacist is prohibited from substituting a generic product when your physician has specified "Do Not Substitute" on the prescription. You also have the right to decline a substitution. Some insurance or health maintenance organizations may not pay as much for the prescription if you are the one who asked for a brand name drug.

You should realize that not all brand name drugs have generic equivalents because the brand name drugs may be protected by patent for a period of time and no substitution can be made.

Tips for you and your medicine

  • Choose your pharmacist with the same care as your physician. Choose one who is available to you and who will take the time to answer your questions regarding your prescription.
  • Check to see if your pharmacist maintains a profile on your medicine history. This is a valuable tool for your pharmacist to warn you of drug interactions from prescriptions you are already taking. For this reason, it is wise to do business with one pharmacist for your prescription needs.
  • Ask what the cost is before your prescription is filled.
  • Read the name on the label to make sure you are getting your prescription and not another person's by mistake.
  • Ask the pharmacist to tell you the purpose of the medicine and how to take it so to avoid errors and clarify any misunderstandings you may have.
  • Always read the label and package insert instructions carefully. Ask your pharmacist about things you do not understand.
  • Ask your pharmacist about inter-actions with food, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol while taking your prescribed medication and what precautions you should take.
  • Always store your prescription and other drugs out of the reach of children.
  • Do not store your prescription or other drugs in mislabeled containers.
  • Not all drugs are available in the generic form.
  • You have the right to refuse a generic substitution.
  • Your physician may have a sound medical reason for prescribing a brand name drug. If so, he must write "Do Not Substitute" on the prescription. Always ask if there is a generic form.

Published by the Office of the Attorney General in accordance with KRS 217.896.

Informational Brochure

Generic Drugs (PDF) — published by the Office of the Attorney General

Related statutes