March 2, 2008

Understanding your Rx Benefits

Do you understand the different prescription Rx benefits in your health insurance plan? Don't feel alone as many people become confused between the differences between Name Brand, Generic or Formulary.

Name Brand: A brand name drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is supplied by one company (the pharmaceutical manufacturer). The drug is protected by a patent and is marketed under the manufacturer's brand name.

Generic: When a drug patent expires other companies may produce a generic version of the brand name drug. A generic medication, also approved by the FDA, is basically a copy of the brand name drug and is marketed under its chemical name. A generic drug may have a different color or shape than its brand name counterpart, but it must have the same active ingredients, strength, and dosage form (i.e., pill, liquid, or injection), and provide the same effectiveness and safety as its brand name counterpart.

Formulary: A formulary is a list of both generic and brand name drugs that are preferred by your health plan. Often, many drugs on the market produce the same results equally well. Health plans will choose formulary drugs that are just as safe and effective as the alternatives but cost less. A team of pharmacists and physicians meet to review the formulary and make changes as necessary.

Understanding these differences can potentially save you money next time you re-fill your prescription. Consult your physician or pharmacist to see if your Name Brand Rx is available as a Generic or Formulary brand option.