Information About Generic Drugs

Would you like to help reduce your health care costs? Take control by asking your doctor to prescribe generic drugs when they're available and appropriate. This information about generics is provided to help you make healthy and smart choices about your pharmacy benefit.

Important facts you should know

  • By asking your doctor and pharmacist for generics, when available, you may save money without giving up on quality.
  • Generic equivalent medications contain the same active ingredient(s) as brand medications and are subject to the same rigid U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards of quality, strength and purity.
  • Generic drugs generally cost 30 percent to 80 percent less than the equivalent brand-name product.
  • Half of all prescription drugs have generic equivalents at this time, and more are on the way.
  • Many of the generic drugs are made by the same major drug companies that produce the brand medications.

What is the difference between a brand drug and its generic equivalent?
The main difference between a brand drug and its generic equivalent is the cost of the product. Generic manufacturers are able to sell their products for lower prices because they generally do not engage in significant research and development, costly advertising, marketing and promotion. While generics and brand-name equivalent drugs contain the same active ingredient(s), they may be a different color, shape and/or size or may contain different inactive ingredients. A generic drug must contain the same active ingredient(s) and must be equivalent in strength and dosage to the original brand-name product.

Do all branded drugs have a generic equivalent?
About half of all brand-name prescription drugs have generic equivalents at this time, and others are introduced on a regular basis. Equivalent generic products for brand-name medications become available after a patent(s) and other exclusivity rights for the brand expire. When pharmaceutical manufacturers invent and market new drugs, they get patent protection. This means for a period of time, only their brand of that drug is available. After patents and exclusivities expire, other manufacturers can make that same medication available as a generic drug.

Why do generic equivalents cost less?
Several different manufacturers may develop generic equivalents. This competition results in the lower cost of generics in the marketplace. Brand-name drugs tend to be more expensive than generic drugs because the manufacturers of those brand-name drugs need to recover the original research and investment associated with developing that brand-name product.

How can I get the generic equivalent and save money?
Ask your doctor if a generic drug is available and if it is appropriate for you. If your doctor feels that a generic drug is appropriate, ask him/her to indicate on the prescription that substitution is permitted.

At the pharmacy, you can often make the choice between a brand-name drug and an available generic version, unless your doctor has written on the prescription that no substitution can be made.

State laws that regulate the practice of medicine and pharmacy do vary regarding use of generics. In some states, if the doctor prescribes or authorizes a generic drug, the pharmacist must dispense the generic drug.

CVS Caremark and retail pharmacies may contact your physician to see if a generic can be used. This is done to help you and GEHA save money.

Does using the generic save GEHA money?
Yes, often, both you and GEHA save money. Using generics is an important way to manage the cost of your prescription benefit, keeping it more affordable for both you and GEHA.

If you have any questions about your benefit and copays or your prescription, please call the CVS Caremark GEHA-dedicated customer care line at 844.4.GEHA.RX. You may also visit to get information about your prescriptions and health-related topics or submit messages to the online customer service representatives and pharmacists.

In recent years, patents have expired on several widely used brand-name drugs, including:

Abilify (aripiprazole) Crestor (rosuvastatin) Nexium (esomeprazole) Voltaren 1% gel (diclofenac 1% gel)
Actos (pioglitazone) Effexor XR (venlafaxine, extended release) Niaspan (niacin, extended-release) Xalatan (latanoprost)
Aggrenox (aspirin and dipyridamole) Flomax (tamsulosin) Nuvigil (armodafinil) Xyvox (linezolid)
Ambien CR (zolpidem extended-release) Gleevec (imatinib) Plavix (clopidogrel) Zyprexa (olanzapine)
Androgel 1% (testosterone) Hyzaar (losartan potassium/hydrochlorothiazide) Prevacid (lansoprazole)
Aricept (donepezil) Imitrex (sumatriptan) Protonix (pantoprazole)
Avalide (irbesartan/hydrochlorothiazide) Keppra (levetiracetam) Provigil (modafinil)
Avapro (irbesartan) Lamictal (lamotrigine) Revatio (sildenafil)
Avodart (dutasteride) Levaquin (levofloxacin) Seroquel (quetiapine)
Boniva (ibandronate) Lexapro (escitalopram) Singulair (montelukast)
Celebrex (celecoxib) Lidoderm (lidocaine topical patch) Topamax (topiramate)
Clarinex (desloratadine) Lipitor (atorvastatin) Tricor (fenofibrate)
Colcrys (colchicines, USP) Lovenox (enoxaparin) Trilipix (fenofibric acid)
Concerta (methylphenidate) Namenda IR (memantine hydrochloride) Valtrex (valacyclovir)
Cozaar (losartan potassium) Nasonex (mometasone furoate) Vivelle-Dot Patch (estradiol transdermal)

See list below of common brand products for which generic equivalents are available.

Commonly prescribed brand-name drugs that have generic equivalents
Select the generic equivalent for the lowest copayment
Brand-Name Products Generic Equivalent
Abilify aripiprazole
Accolate zafirlukast
aspirin and dipyridamole
Altace ramipril
Ambien zolpidem
Ambien CR zolpidem extended-release
Aricept donepezil
Avalide irbesartan/hydrochlorothiazide
Avapro irbesartan
Avodart dutasteride
Boniva ibandronate
Cardizem CD diltiazem
Clarinex desloratadine
Concerta methylphenidate
Coreg carvedilol
Cosopt dorzolamide HCI/timolol maleate
Cozaar losartan potassium
Crestor rosuvastatin
Effexor XR venlafaxine, extended-release
Femara letrozole
Flomax tamsulosin
Fosamax alendronate
Gleevec imatinib
Glucophage metformin
Hyzaar losartan potassium/hydrochlorothiazide
Imdur isosorbide mononitrate
Imitrex sumatriptan
Keppra levetiracetam
Lamictal lamotrigine
Lamisil terbinafine
Lasix furosemide
Lescol fluvastatin
Levaquin levofloxacin
Lexapro escitalopram
Lipitor atorvastatin
Lopressor metoprolol tartrate
Lopressor HCT metoprolol/hydrochlorthiazide
Lortab hydrocodone bitartrate/acetaminophen
Lotensin benazepril
Lovenox enoxaparin
Mobic meloxicam
Namenda IR memantine hydrochloride
Nasonex mometasone furoate
Nexium esomeprazole
Norvasc amlodipine
Nuvigil armodafinil
Paxil paroxetine
Percocet oxycodone/acetaminophen
Plavix clopidogrel
Pravachol pravastatin
Prevacid lansoprazole
Prilosec omeprazole
Protonix pantoprazole
Provera medroxyprogesterone acetate
Provigil modafinil
Prozac fluoxetine
Requip ropinirole
Risperdal risperidone
Ritalin (and Ritalin SR) methylphenidate (and extended release)
Seroquel quetiapine
Singulair montelukast
Teveten 600mg eprosartan
Trusopt dorzolamide
Valium diazepam
Valtrex valacyclovir
Vicodin hydrocodone bitartrate/acetaminophen
Voltaren 1% gel diclofenac 1% gel
Wellbutrin (SR & XL) bupropion HCL, extended-release
Xalatan latanoprost
Xanax alprazolam
Xyvox linezolid
Zithromax azithromycin
Zocor simvastatin
Zofran ondansetron
Zoloft sertraline HCI
Zyprexa olanzapine