Save Money With Generic Drugs: When To Go OTC

by JT on March 7, 2011

generic drugs

While we seem to be bombarded with commercials advocating over the counter medicines, consumers never get to see advertisements for generic drugs and store branded medication. This may lead people to assume that the store brands are not as effective as the big name brands — a belief that can cost many consumers to spend more money on medication than necessary.

The Reality of Generic Drugs and OTC Medications

The reality is that over the counter medications must be approved by the FDA, just like the brand names. While there is no physician’s prescription needed to get medications like pain relievers, headache medicine, and cold pills, over the counter medications are still held up to strict guidelines for usage and interaction information as all other medication, OTC or otherwise.

The FDA has been working to get consumers more access to medications and have changed some medications such as Zyrtec and Prilosec from prescription only medications to over the counter brands. This can actually be a disadvantage to insured consumers who will end up paying more money for over the counter medications than they normally would for a prescription with a co-pay. This is a prime example why consumers need to pay more attention than ever to prices and alternatives for buying medications.

What’s In Your Medication? Check Out The Ingredients

The large brand-named medication manufacturers generally have a huge budget to market and promote their products to consumers in print, on television, and on the radio, leading consumers to remember and come to rely on those big brand names. Consumers may not be privy to the fact that many times, both the big name and the generic versions of the medications are manufactured at the same factory. The only difference found in these medications is in the packaging: different looking bottles and boxes may be used for the same drug.

Bottom-line, the manufacturers of generic drugs still must follow the regulations set by the FDA. The ingredients found in the off-brand medications are the same as the more popular, well-known products.

Next time you go to the pharmacy or health and beauty section of the store, do a comparison yourself. Read the labels and see just how similar the medications are. Most labels have a standard format that manufacturers follow, so comparing labels should not be very difficult. Pay attention to the active ingredients and recommended dosage amounts for comparison purposes.

If you have a difficult time understanding labels, do not hesitate to talk to the pharmacist. They’ll be able to help you understand what the labels mean and direct you to a less expensive alternative. You should always consult with a pharmacist if you aren’t sure about using a new medication, especially if you are already taking prescription medications that may react with other drugs. You also want to make sure you are buying the right medications to treat only the symptoms you have; or you may end up overmedicating yourself.

Compare Prices To Save Money On Medication

Finding a great price on your over the counter medication is not always easy. Many stores who offer generic versions of medications may offer lower prices than their competitors. If you are open to purchasing generic or store brand medications, you may have to scout out several pharmacies and bigger stores like Walmart and Kmart to find the best deal. It is really worth the investigation too because often you can find price differences of up to 50%.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FruGal September 2, 2008 at 2:28 am

Great post. I do this myself for my allergy medication, and save myself a heap of money. The own-brand meds have the exact ingredients of the name-brand products, and are less than a third of the price! 🙂

2 MyDebtRefinance September 18, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Any buck counts and more in terms of health. Normally for monthly prescriptions this advice can save a fortune in the long term. Thanks!

3 Helene October 20, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I make it a rule to ask my physician for the generic version of the drug. Thanks for your contribution to Take Charge of Your Health Care Carnival.

4 Jenn June 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

I always go generic and I use a discount drug card that I get from It works on generics too.

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