Generic Drugs: What Am I Missing?

I stopped by Rite Aid yesterday and observed the simple fact that Advil was 2.5 times more expensive than Ibuprofen (its generic counterpart).

I always get the generic brand. Well not always, almost always… Do not laugh, but when I hurt my ankle a year ago at a judo tournament, I bought the brand name Advil. Yes, I paid extra just for the placebo effect. However, for some god forsaken reason, it immediately felt good when I took it. It felt like it was “working better”, whatever that means in the case of a mild anti-inflammatory. Why?

I looked into this question online, and it seems that all legitimate government and scientific reports show no difference between generics and brand name drugs. Here is a simple representative article from the FDA: Facts and Myths about Generic Drugs.

So what is the difference? And if there is no difference, how the hell does our semi-capitalist system allow a product to cost 2.5 times more than another one that does the same exact thing and still survive as a product. What is at work here? Are we just paying for the power of the name? Is the placebo effect of a medicine for which you had to pay more that significant?

0 thoughts on “Generic Drugs: What Am I Missing?

  1. Azeez Hayne

    Ah, the beauty of marketing. Why will people pay $200 for one pair of jeans, but no more than $30 for another pair? There are a few answers i think. One is product differentiation. But as you point out, in principle there is no difference between brand name and generic drugs. Another is convenience. Eg, we may pay more for toothpaste at 7-Eleven than the supermarket because 7-Eleven in theory is more convenient. Finally, their is marketing/branding which, in this case, appears to be inefficient (or at least somewhat irrational).


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