Mesothelioma drugs can put a dent in your monthly budget. Even if you have insurance or Medicare, you probably face multiple co-pays for drugs to treat your mesothelioma and manage your symptoms. It’s worth exploring whether you could switch to generic drugs. Because generics are not as profitable, generic mesothelioma drugs for chemotherapy may not be available. But even though chemotherapy mesothelioma drugs may not have generics, the savings in generic substitutes for drugs to help manage mesothelioma symptoms may help a lot. Understanding the differences between generic drugs and name brands can help ease any fears of generics, provide you peace of mind about their effectiveness, and represent a real cost savings.
What are Generic Drugs?
Generic drugs for mesothelioma and other illnesses are copies of brand name drugs. To be sold, a generic drug must be “bioidentical” to the brand name drug. This means that the generic drug must be proven to be the same as the brand name drug in the following ways:
- dosage form (tablet, capsule, liquid, etc.)
- strength (same amount of drug in both)
- how it is taken (by mouth, injection, etc.)
- how the medicine gets into the bloodstream and works in the body
The manufacturer of a generic drug must prove that it complies with these requirements before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow it to be sold to the public.
Why are Generic Mesothelioma Drugs Cheaper Than Brand Name Drugs?
A brand name drug costs about a billion dollars to put on the market. It has to go through years of research and testing before it can be sold. During this testing, the company producing the drug must prove that it is safe and effective to use. Once the new drug is approved, the company that made it receives a patent. This gives them about 17 years to recoup their investment by having the exclusive right to sell the drug.
When a patent for a brand name drug expires, any other company can copy the drug and sell a generic version. These other companies must only prove that their product is the same as the brand name drug. This means that generic drug companies do not have to spend as much time and money because they do not have to invent or test the drug for safety and get FDA approval. This is why generic drugs cost less.
Are Generic Mesothelioma Drugs as Effective as Brand Name Drugs?
The answer is a qualified yes. A company that makes a generic drug must show that its version of the drug is 80%-125% “bioequivalent” to the original brand name drug. Let’s say a brand name drug delivers100mg of medicine to the bloodstream. For a generic version of the drug to be considered safe and effective, the active drug in the tablet or capsule must release between 80mg and 125mg to the bloodstream (80-125%). This means that some generic versions might have 80mg reach the bloodstream and others might have 125mg reach the bloodstream. With mesothelioma, even slight variations could make a difference so discuss all generic options with your doctor.
Why Do Generic Drugs Look Different?
To protect brand-name drugs’ identity, generic versions cannot look the same. A generic version of a drug can be any color or shape as long as the amount of active drug is similar to the brand name drug. Just because two versions of the drug do not look the same does not mean they act differently in the body.
How to Find Generic Versions of the Mesothelioma Drugs You Take
There are several ways to find out if there are generic versions of the mesothelioma drugs you take.
Ask your doctor and your pharmacist. They will be able to tell you if there is a generic version of a drug available or when a generic version may become available.
Research it yourself. The FDA has a website Drugs@FDA that allows you to search for generic drugs by their name or active ingredient. You also can look up information on specific generic and brand-name drugs on the Drugs and Supplements page at MedlinePlus.gov.
How Can I Get Generic Mesothelioma Drugs?
Ask your pharmacist whether there’s a generic drug that will work just as well for you as a brand-name drug you’re taking. Tell them you want the most effective drug at the best price, and that you want prescriptions for generic drugs when possible.
Every state has laws permitting pharmacists to substitute generic drugs for many brand-name drugs if your doctor doesn’t specify that the brand-name drug is required.
Will My Doctor Prescribe Generic Mesothelioma drugs?
It depends on your doctor. You can ask your doctor to write a prescription that will allow the substitution of a generic drug when it’s appropriate. You also can ask whether a generic product will be as effective and less costly.