According to data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, consumers in the US spent almost $4 billion on retail prescriptions in 2010 and a large portion of that business was in the form of generic medications. Generics now make up more than 80% of all prescriptions filled at human pharmacies. In addition, pet owners are now asking about generic alternatives for their animals.
So, what is a generic drug and are there concerns about using them for our four legged family members?
Drugs that contain the same active ingredient as a brand name medication are known as generics. These products become available after a pharmaceutical company loses their patent protection on the specific drug molecule. Since the necessary clinical testing that is so important for new drugs does not need to be repeated for generics, these medications are sold at a much lower cost. In addition, many consumers are already familiar with the drug and advertising costs can be greatly reduced.
Medicines that are brought to market as generics must contain the same active ingredients, have the same route of administration, same dosage or strength and the same conditions of use. But, many people still have serious worries about how well these medications perform or their overall safety. News reports about poor manufacturing standards and contaminated ingredients have raised alarm in the minds of many individuals.
However, the FDA has an extensive overview process that not only creates a system for evaluating quality standards for manufacturing, but also significant testing to show that the drug performs just like the original product. This assessment of the generic’s performance is known as proving bioequivalence.
Still, it is important to remember that all people, and pets, are individuals and there is always the possibility that a unique response can occur to either the original drug or the generic equivalent. In addition, inert ingredients used in the manufacturing of the generic product may differ from the brand name. This could also lead to abnormal or adverse reactions to the medication.
Knowing all of this, does it make sense for pet owners to spend extra time at a retail pharmacy picking up pet medications or parasite preventives?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that your veterinarian is crucial to answering that question. A physical examination of the pet and a veterinarian/client/patient relationship are necessary in order for the veterinarian to write any prescription. In other words, don’t expect to get a prescription if your pet hasn’t seen their doctor in more than a year.
Next, lab work is often needed to keep your veterinarian up-to-date on your pet’s health status and to monitor any disease process. For medications like heartworm preventives, it is vital that your dog have a negative heartworm test before continuing the medicine.
Finally, with many brands and alternatives on the market, it’s easy to become confused about the exact product that your pet requires. Your veterinarian and his or her team can help you find the one that matches the medical needs of your pet as well as one that is safe and effective.
Be wary of online websites that promise absurdly low prices on pet medications. Far too often, these are simply scams designed to take your money.
Many veterinarians keep a well-stocked pharmacy right in their hospital or allow their clients to order drugs online. Getting the medications directly from your veterinarian could save you time and hassle. But, in either case, your veterinarian will want to help you get the right drugs at a price that fits in your budget. That is their commitment to you as their trusted client.