Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
When it comes to choosing an oral contraceptive, many people with uteri have the same important questions. Generic versus brand name birth control? Which is more cost-effective? Do generic versions cause more side effects?
There are numerous reasons why generic birth control may be a better option than the brand name. Read on to learn all the benefits so you can make an informed decision about your birth control.
What is generic birth control and why is it being sold?
The original manufacturer of a brand medication has a patent and gets exclusivity to market and sell the birth control for 20 years. This allows the pharmaceutical company to recoup the investment spent in creating the drug formula and carrying out the necessary clinical trials – hence the high cost of brand name birth control. After the patent expires, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows other companies to make and market a generic version of the brand name contraceptives to decrease prices. In other words, generic birth control is simply a copy of the brand name with the same active ingredients and efficacy. The main difference is that it might contain different inactive ingredients and/or come in a different color.
With all of that being said, it is safe to say that in most cases, generic birth control is an excellent option. Here are the top reasons why you should choose this type of birth control over brand name.
1. Generic birth control is less expensive
Generic birth control is inexpensive and easily accessible. The cheap cost is due to the fact that the manufacturer only has to pay for the production of the pill and not the research and development the original pharmaceutical company had to pay for. Choosing generic contraceptives saves individuals millions in contraceptive costs accumulated over years. More specifically, brand name birth control can cost between $60 to $180 a month amounting to $720-$2160 a year versus their generic versions, which may cost $0 (with insurance under the Affordable Care Act) or at least 30% less.
2. Generic birth control is just as effective
Generic birth control pills are just as effective as the brand-name version because they have the same active ingredients. Individuals may have less confidence in generic birth control, but the FDA has stated that generic birth control pills are clinically equivalent and interchangeable with their brand-name counterparts. Due to heavy regulations in the pharmaceutical sector, the FDA monitors and tests generic birth control pill makers to ensure compliance with manufacturing standards required to achieve the same results as their brand name versions.
It is important to note that some generic birth control pills contain inactive ingredients such as coloring, dyes, preservatives, or binding agents that are different from those in the original version. These ingredients may cause side effects in some individuals, but they do not affect the efficacy of generic contraceptives.
3. Generic birth control is covered by insurance
Generic birth control is most likely covered by insurance. With one of the biggest barriers to accessing contraceptives being the cost, the Affordable Care Act required that private health insurance plans provide coverage for contraception, saving individuals in the United States up to $1.4 billion. While the amendments in former President Trump’s administration allowed employers to opt-out of covering birth control for religious or moral reasons, most health insurance plans still cover contraception with no out-of-pocket cost to consumers.
Health insurance plans usually have a drug pricing system that allows them to cover the drugs that are more affordable, and it is no surprise that the first-tier is usually filled with generic birth control. If most generic contraceptives are just as good as their counterpart brand names, it is only right to get the generic versions at no cost under your health insurance plan.
4. You’re probably on a generic and you don’t even know it
The simple truth is, you are probably already on generic birth control. Common brand names include Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-cyclen, Yaz, Yasmin, Seasonale, and Seasonique. Some generic versions include Trinessa, Estarylla, Sprintec, Tri-sprintec, Loryna, Gianvi, Apri, and Levora.
Every person with a uterus is different, which means that each reproductive system is unique. That being said, if you do not like a particular generic birth control pill, switching to a different brand is always an option.
5. Generic birth control is environmentally friendly
Generic birth control typically produces less waste (a.k.a a step further in preserving our ecosystem). Brand name contraceptive pills usually come in hard compact-like cases, which can be difficult to recycle and further lead to increased waste. On the other hand, most generic birth control pills come in paper packaging, which is easily recyclable and reusable. If you are watching your waste consumption, look to generic birth control as a potential solution.
Best generic birth control pill
Within the genre of generic birth control pills, there are numerous options. It is important to consider your medical background when deciding which type to try. For instance, a woman who is breastfeeding should stick to birth control pills that contain the hormone progestin, as estrogen could dry up the milk supply.
Read on to learn more details about each generic oral contraceptive!
Ortho Tri-Cyclen is a combination birth control pill (a.k.a contains both estrogen and progestin) that is described as very effective with correct and typical use. It works to prevent pregnancy and may also help clear up the skin.
Estarylla is a combination birth control pill used to prevent pregnancy, reduce the severity of periods, and improve acne. The doctors at Pandia Health do not recommend Estarylla for individuals with high blood pressure or those that take blood pressure medications.
Levora is combination birth control pill that is very effective at preventing pregnancy. However it is not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure, as one side effect is blood clotting.
Portia is a combination birth control pill that is successful at preventing pregnancy, but also not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure. That said, it is ultimately a safe option for many individuals.
Chateal is a combination birth control pill that is reported as safe and effective at preventing pregnancy and reducing the severity of period symptoms with few side effects.
Aubra is a “low-dose” birth control pill, which means that it contains less than 30 micrograms of estrogen. Our CEO & co-founder, Dr. Yen does not recommend low-dose birth control for women under the age of 30, as it may lead to decreased bone density.
Apri is a combination birth control pill that is reported as safe and effective at preventing pregnancy and reducing the severity of period symptoms with few side effects.
Gianvi is another low-dose birth control pill. It is only recommended for individuals over the age of 30 due to the potential risks related to bone density.
Loryna is another low-dose birth control pill. It is only recommended for individuals over the age of 30 due to the potential risks related to bone density.
Tri-sprintec is a triphasic, which means that it contains three doses of hormones that vary throughout the pack. Dr. Yen does not recommend this pill, as the changes in hormones may lead to increased side effects.
Sprintec is a combination birth control pill that is reported as safe and effective at preventing pregnancy and reducing the severity of period symptoms with few side effects. Dr. Yen recommends this pill over the triphasic version, Tri-Sprintec.
The minipill only contains progestin. Generic versions include Camila, Errin, Heather, Jolivette, and Norethindrone. This birth control pill may be recommended for individuals who are sensitive to estrogen. It requires a significant amount of diligence on behalf of the individuals, as it must be taken at the same time every day in order to be effective.
What’s the takeaway?
While generic birth control is a safe and effective option, it may not be the best choice for all individuals. At the end of the day, it is most important to consult a healthcare professional before starting or switching birth control.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does birth control expire?
As with all medications, birth control can expire. Make sure to check the date on your pack, as using expired birth control is risky.
How much do birth control pills cost?
At Pandia Health, our pills cost $0 with most insurance companies and as low as $15 per pack without insurance.
What hormones are in birth control?
Combination birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin while minipills only contain progestin. These hormones prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation (a.k.a. the release of an egg) and blocking sperm from entering the uterus. They also lead to numerous health benefits including lighter periods, improved acne, and decreased risk of certain cancers.
Can you switch from one generic birth control to another?
It is possible to switch from one birth control to another. In fact, this is recommended if your current prescription is caussing unpleasant side effects. That said, it is important to note that if you take a break between active pills, you will no longer be protected against pregnancy.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a doctor before starting or switching birth control.