Pet Meds: What’s in a Name (Brand)?

Humans love names – they give us something to hold on to, something to remember things by and something to set one thing apart from another. Without a name, people on the street would just shout out “Hey, you” when they wanted to tell one person (me) that they (I) forgot to wear pants and everyone would have to turn around and look at that pants-less person (me) and point and laugh. At least, that’s how it plays out in that recurring dream I have. (Just kidding. And I faithfully wear pants. Every. Single. Day.)

The other recurring dream I have is that my beard is on fire, and the only thing I have to put it out with is a fork. It doesn’t end well. Now, back to the topic at hand!

But names don’t tell the whole story. I am talking here specifically about generic versus prescription medications. When I was in college, I drank generic beer due to hypomoneytosis (acute lack of liquid funds, or finds to buy liquids with!) It was awful. It came in a white can with one word – BEER, in all black caps – on it.

It had different ingredients from the beer my wealthier friends drank – their beer probably had a little more hops and better water, and perhaps a smidge less kerosene. Or whatever it is they put into generic beer that makes it intolerable – unless you’re an extremely broke veterinary student.

That’s one of the crucial differences between a generic food, and a generic medication. A generic medication has the exact same active ingredients as the often more well-known name brand. The same amounts, the same chemical structure, the same pharmacology – everything. It just doesn’t have the name, and it doesn’t have the price tag. According to (a consumer watchdog organization), generic drugs cost 40-50% less than their name-brand cohorts with the exact same degree of efficacy.

So, while a generic beer may include monkey bile or rainbow dust, for example, among its flavorings (great taste, less filling), a generic medication will have the same drug as its more famous fancy-pants named cousin for a fraction of the cost. Same effect, less money. In short, there is no compelling reason to choose a costlier named brand drug if a comparable generic exists. When there are generic options, you should engage your veterinarian in a conversation about using them to decrease your pet’s healthcare costs, just like you do for your own.

These days, there are even over-the-counter treatments for pets that are generic versions of what used to be veterinary-only products. Fiproguard is a good example of that (generic for Frontline Top Spot) and even WormX Plus uses the same active ingredients used in dewormers commonly used at the veterinarian. Of course, never underestimate the important role your veterinarian plays – and always consult with them if you have questions about your pet’s health, about specific products or about how to extinquish beard fires with a fork (in the case of this veterinarian, anyhow.)

The economics of pharmaceuticals are not my area of expertise (I would rather put my flaming beard out with a fork than delve into the shadowy world of economics), but the bottom line is clear – if you can go generic, you should and you will save money doing it. I’d bet you a (generic) beer that you’ll be better off.


-Photo Credit: Image from flickr by Latteda

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