The Battle over Generic Drugs

Listen / Download

What’s in a brand name? Years of monopoly and big earnings, if it’s a
new drug. Lipitor, Zanex, Zoloft. But when a pharmaceutical patent expires, another company can manufacture the same drug and charge less: a so-called generic drug.

Ever since a 1984 law rewrote the rules on pharmaceutical patents, the generic share of the prescription drug market has mushroomed. Some say generic drug sales cut into the profits that fund new drug research. But others say money is more likely to go to marketing or into the pockets of shareholders.

Meanwhile, health care policymakers see the cheaper prices of generics as a key to reining in health care costs. As the Senate deadlocks over a federal drug benefit, we look at one piece of the health care puzzle: generic drugs.


Gregory Glover, physician and lawyer, consultant to PhRMA, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Jerry Avorn, chief of the division of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.