By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 17, 2008
IN the contentious debate over insuring Americans' health, the value of generic prescription drugs is a rare point of consensus. Patients, physicians, employers, politicians -- all hail generics as powerful treatment for a swelling healthcare tab. On average, these copycat medicines cost less than a third of the brand-name drugs they mimic. In turn, the competition they provide drives down the cost of those first-to-market drugs.
Officials of the Food and Drug Administration insist this feat of economics comes without any compromise to a medicine's effectiveness. To be marketed in the United States, these low-cost medicines must be approved by the FDA, which ensures they are "bioequivalent" to their brand-name counterparts -- the same dose of the same active ingredient, delivered in the same way, and manufactured according to the same standards of quality.