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Brand Versus Generic: Which Medications Are Best for Lowering Your Cholesterol?

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Updated August 02, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Brand Versus Generic: Which Medications Are Best for Lowering Your Cholesterol?
Answer:

Generic cholesterol-lowering drugs are typically cheaper than brand-name drugs, but are they equally effective in lowering your cholesterol levels?

What Are Generic Drugs?

A generic drug contains the same active ingredient as its brand-name counterpart, but may differ in the inert ingredients they contain, such as binders and fillers that are used to make the pill. In order for a generic drug to be approved for use, it must be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for effectiveness and safety. Additionally, the FDA will also look at the bioequivalence of the drug – that is, how similar the generic drug is absorbed and behaves in the body in comparison to the brand-name drug. In order to get approved, the generic medication should be comparable to the brand-name medication in bioequivalence, effectiveness and safety.

What Do Studies Say About Generic Cholesterol-Lowering Medications?

There have been very few studies that compare the effectiveness of brand and generic cholesterol-lowering medications. Of these studies, simvastatin and its brand name, Zocor, were compared for effectiveness. These studies found that there were no significant differences in the ability of both medications to affect lipids, including lowering LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol, as well as increasing HDL.

So, if you are looking to save on how much money you spend on your cholesterol-lowering medication, you might want to talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a generic medication. Unfortunately, not all cholesterol-lowering medications are available as generics, so double check with your healthcare provider. Additionally, you may want to use caution when switching to a generic in medications other than those that lower cholesterol. Switching from brand to generic – or vice versa – in some medications, such as anticonvulsants, certain hormones and blood thinners may adversely alter the treatment of your medical condition. For these medications, you should definitely talk to your healthcare provider before switching from a brand to a generic.

Sources:

Kesselheim AS, Misono AS, Lee JL et al. Clinical equivalence of generic and brand-name drugs used in cardiovascular disease. JAMA 2008;300:2514-2526.

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