FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) --
Popular generic drugs like omeprazole, zolpidem and cetirizine, which treat gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and allergies, also are available under familiar brand names. While generic drugs are not advertised on television or in magazines, they provide the same benefits as their brand-name counterparts at a lower price for Tricare beneficiaries and the government alike.
Because of the safety, efficacy and cost-savings provided by generic drugs, it is Department of Defense policy that all Tricare beneficiary prescriptions are filled using generic-equivalent medication when available.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials review and approve all generic drugs and hold them to the same standards as brand-name drugs. Generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients, strength, dosage and uses as brand-name drugs. The medications usually look different because their inactive ingredients differ, but those features do not affect the safety or effectiveness of generic medications.
Generic drugs save American consumers billions of dollars each year, according to Congressional Budget Office officials. Prescription costs for Tricare beneficiaries are based on the type of drug and where the prescription is being filled, with generic always being the least expensive drug option. For example, a 90-day supply of a generic drug through Tricare Home Delivery has just a $3 copayment, while a brand-name drug has a $9 copayment. At a network pharmacy, the copayments are the same $3 for generic and $9 for brand-name, but that's only for a 30-day supply.
Generic drugs do not cost less because they are of lesser quality. When brand-name drugs make their appearance on the market, their formula is under a patent. When that patent period is over, generic versions emerge at a lower price, partially because they are not advertised.
Though it's DOD policy that all prescriptions are filled using the generic-equivalent medication if available, brand-name drugs can be covered in matters of medical necessity with prior approval. One example would be an allergy to a generic drug's inactive ingredients. In cases where a generic equivalent does not exist, the brand-name drug is dispensed for the brand-name co-payment.
Learn more about generic drugs from the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at www.fda.gov/drugs
. For more information about the Tricare pharmacy program, go to www.tricare.mil/pharmacy
(Courtesy of Tricare News Service)