Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
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As with any medication, when it comes to birth control pills, most women have the same important questions in deciding which one to buy. Generic versus “Brand Name” birth control? Which is more cost effective? If I choose the generic birth control, will there be side effects?
Despite all these questions, there are still so many reasons why generic birth control is better than the brand name.
To make an informed choice about oral contraceptives, one should understand: 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 birth control. After the patent expires, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows other companies to make and market a generic version of the brand birth control to decrease prices. Generic birth control is simply a copy of the brand name with the same active ingredients and efficacy except it might contain different inactive ingredients and comes in a different color. The FDA makes sure the generic has the same active ingredients as the brand name.
Now that we have established that generic birth control is more or less the same as the brand name, here are the top reasons why you should choose generic birth control over brand name.
1. It’s less expensive
Generic birth control is inexpensive. It is no news that generic birth control is cheaper than brand because the manufacturer only has to pay for the production of the pill and not all the research and development the original pharmaceutical company had to pay for. Choosing generic birth control saves women millions in contraceptives cost accumulated over years. Brand name birth control can cost between $60 to $180 a month (depending on which drug) amounting to $720-$2160 a year versus their generic versions costing from $0 (with insurance and the affordable care act) to at least 30% less. Now imagine all the fun things you can do with an extra $2160 every year…
2. It’s just as effective
Generic birth control is just as effective as the brand name version because they have the same active ingredients. There has been no research showing that generic birth control pills work differently from the brand name version. Some people might have less confidence in generic birth control (yes, low expectations and lack of confidence might be causing more harm than good), but the FDA has stated that generic birth control pills are just as 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 makers to ensure compliance with manufacturing standards required to achieve the same results as their brand name versions.
Generic birth control can contain inactive ingredients such as coloring, dyes, preservatives or binding agents that are different from the brand birth version. These inactive ingredients sometimes cause side effects in some women, but they do not affect the efficacy of the generic birth control.
3. It’s covered by insurance
Generic birth control is most likely covered by insurance. With one of the biggest barriers to accessing birth control being the cost, Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) required that private health insurance plans provide coverage for contraception, saving women in the United States up to $1.4 billion. While the amendments in Trump’s administration allows 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 which allows them to cover the drugs that are typically more affordable and it is no surprise that the first-tier is usually filled with generic birth control. If most generic names of birth control are just as good as their counterpart brand names, it is only right to get the generic versions at no cost at all 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 a generic birth control. There are several generic versions of your brand name birth control and chances are, you are taking the generic version. While there are common brand names like Ortho Cyclen, Ortho Tri-cyclen, Yaz, Yasmin, Seasonale, Seasonique; there are generic versions of each of these like Trinessa, Estarylla, Sprintec, Tri-sprintec, Loryna, Gianvi, Apri, Junel, Jolessas, Aubra, Chateal, Portia, Viorele, Levora, Lutera, Mono-linyah, Altavera.
Every woman is different and each reproductive system is unique. So, if you find that you do not like a particular generic birth control pill, it might seem to boil down to the inactive ingredient used to distinguish it from the brand name counterpart.
5. It’s environmentally friendly
With generic birth control, you’re potentially looking at less waste and a step further in preserving our ecosystem. Brand name birth control pills usually come in hard compact-like cases which can be hard to recycle and lead to increased waste in the ocean and ecosystem, while most generic birth control pills (as pictured above) come in paper packaging which is easily recyclable and reusable.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.