Brand name headache medications cost more but are they the best headache pain medication when compared to those generic brands placed next to them on the shelf that cost so much less? There is not a straight yes or no answer that fits this question because there are too many variables that fit into this equation. Each person will have to come up with the answer to this on his own based on his circumstances.
It is important to realize that developing medications to treat headaches, including aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, takes many years to complete, whether these medications are being developed in the United States or in another country. The process is long and it is very expensive. There is also the issue of the FDA approval process to contend with before these medications can be placed on the shelves and made available to American consumers.
Once the medications have gotten through all of these hoops, their manufacturers often patent and trademark their products and thus, they have the right to exclusively sell them for a particular length of time when no one else can copy them. After that period of time ends then all of the active ingredients in brand name drugs can be publicly known. This allows other manufacturers to climb on board and start making a similar product. For example, Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company that was the first to develop acetylsalicylic (aspirin), lost its exclusivity to manufacture and sell the medication when Germany lost during WWII. As a result, other pharmaceutical companies were able to create and sell aspirin.
This is how generic drugs enter the market. Generic drugs are often just as good as the brand name drugs out there. Pharmaceutical companies can sell generic drugs for much less because they don't have to spend money researching and developing the drugs and market for them.
It is important to understand that while brand name medications and generic medications are similar, they are not exactly the same. Under the law, manufacturers of generic medications must change more than just the name of the drugs when they are making them. It is not legal for manufacturers of generic drugs to sell the exact drug formulation under a different name. They must change something in the formulation. What most generic drug manufacturers do is make changes to the inactive ingredients of the medication. However, this has to be done in a safe manner so that the generic drug is still effective. Every individual has a different body chemistry, so people may react differently to the inactive ingredients. This explains why some people do well with generic drugs and others don’t.
One small change that can make a significant impact on how a generic drug affects a person is the amount of calcium in the product. For example, individuals who take a popular anti-depressant called Zoloft do well with the generic from to help them with headaches. However, there are those who do not do well with Zoloft's generic form.
You can rest assured, though, that the quality of the ingredients in brand name and generic medications are the same. This is all regulated by the FDA. You hear more about brand name medications because their manufacturers invest plenty of money in marketing techniques while manufacturers of generic medications don’t.