How Do Over the Counter Meds Compare to Brand Names?

June 9, 2008

Over-the counter brand name medicines and products are generally more expensive than store brands or generics, but do they do more?

Dr. Ruth Nemire, Associate Dean at Touro College of Pharmacy, says price may be the only difference.

"For the most part they are all going to do the same thing because they have the same active ingredients," said Nemire.

In many stores, like Rite-Aid, the generic, or store-brand product is to the right of the brand name product on the shelf.

But how do you compare what should you look for?

Nemire said, "You look at the name and the milligrams. You look at the number of capsules, or tablets, or amount of liquid, make sure that's the same."

For example:

"You look at the three ingredients: there's 10 milligrams of the cough suppressant, there's 100 milligrams of expectorant, and there's five milligrams of nasal decongestant. Same thing. Exact same names, exact same amount, you know these products are equivalent," said Nemire.
Wal-Mart District Manager and Pharmacist Gregg Casarona oversees the pharmacy department.

Casarona said, "The active ingredients in these products chemically equivalent. Some of the binders might be different, the coloring might be different, but the effects are exactly the same."

And if you're wondering if store-brands are safe, the Food and Drug Administration says all brands have to meet the FDA's standards.

"The generic which tastes exactly the same, same taste, same texture is half the price at seven dollars," said Casarona.

Generics or store brands are generally cheaper and by a noticeable amount.

"Both of them for allergy. The real big difference here is that you can see for ten tablets it's $10.99, so that's about a $1.10 a tablet and for the generic it's 70 cents a day," said Nemire.

For a medication you take every day, those price differences can add up quickly.

But despite the cost savings some still feel more comfortable with the familiar brand name products.
One type of product that is a little more difficult to compare is sunscreen:

Nemire said, "There are a lot of different ingredients in sunscreens. You really need to look at the inactive ingredients to make sure you are not using a product that might make you break out."

When it comes to most over-the-counter products, Dr. Nemire says most of the time, the store brand is the right choice.

Said Nemire, "Because they do exactly the same thing as the brand name products and because they put money back in your pocket."

So when it comes to over-the-counter medications and products, buying the store-brand will definitely save you money.

Some other things you can do the get more for your money:
-Buy in large quantities.
-Join drug store loyalty programs
-And don't forget to use your medical flexible spending account for over-the-counter products!