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A recent editorial published in the medical journal, Ophthalmology, addressed a common concern: are generic eye drops the same as brand name eye drops when it comes to equal effect?
As patients, we want to save money by purchasing generic medications. Insurance companies are also interested in using generics when possible to cut costs, but is there a downside to this?
If the generic medication you are going to use was FDA approved in 1992 or later, you are basically OK. The FDA requires those medications to have the same exact active and inactive ingredients as the brand name product. This equivalent mix in a liquid solution makes the brand name and the generic essentially the same.
Prior to 1992, the FDA said that the active ingredient had to be the same in the generic as the brand name, but it did NOT specify what the inactive ingredients had to be in the generic formulation of the drug. While we are all most interested in the active ingredients in the medications we use, the inactive components are not merely just “filler.” In eye drops, the inactive components (such as the preservative) can majorly affect the absorption of drug into the eye, as well as the length of time the medication lasts in the eye. These factors can have a significant effect on the clinical activity of the drug. So a generic version of a prescription medication that was FDA approved prior to 1992 may not have the same effect as the brand name drug.
Back in the day…
If we go back even further — to drugs FDA approved prior to 1962 — the story gets even more complicated. In those years, there were no “generic” medications approved because drug companies purposely developed similar medications and had the FDA approve them independently. No one tried to make medications equivalent to one another. So the older medications stand alone and have no equivalents.
Still confused or have anything to add to this conversation? Please leave a comment below.