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GENERIC vs. BRAND NAME

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

“Should I buy brand or generic (off-label) over-the-counter or prescription medications when I have a cancer diagnosis?”



I’ve been a pharmacist for 17 years and I have worked in pharmacies for over 25 years. I personally prefer and exclusively purchase generic medications. I buy generic Tylenol (acetaminophen), Motrin (ibuprofen) and generic cold medications for my family. I personally take generic prescription medications and I also choose generic prescription medications for my family as well.


As an example, I manage Warfarin, also known as Coumadin for many patients, and I almost always recommend the generic Warfarin option.


However, many medications are only available in brand name until such time as the manufacturer’s patent expires. Until then, we have to purchase the brand name. When this is the case, I would look for a coupon or assistance from the manufacturer to lower the one-time or monthly cost. Ask your pharmacist for help or maybe use google to research discounts & coupons for yourself.


I like this link below regarding generic drug options: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/generic-drug-facts.


When treating cancer patients, I always strive to fill the specific brand drugs/medications prescribed by the oncologist or primary care provider, unless generic options are available and acceptable to the treating Dr.’s.


However, if your Oncologist or primary care physician prescribes a generic drug or off-label brand to use to treat your cancer, he or she is likely basing their decision upon working knowledge of and personal experience with the drug. It usually also reflects that the research shows it might be particularly useful for your type and stage of cancer and/or required treatment protocols.


Overall, I am most concerned about dosages, efficacy, side effects and interactions, especially with patients taking multiple medications concurrently. This is even more complex and complicated by a presence of cancer concurrently with multiple other medical conditions.


And, as previously noted, this is also why I am concerned about the use of unknown supplements, which can often have adverse effects and unknown interactions with treatments and medications. I like this resource: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/drugs


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