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Generic drugs may be better than those seen on TV ads

May 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Drug companies spend billions of dollars a year on TV and print ads so you'll ask your doctor to prescribe their drug. And it turns out that's just what people are doing. But Consumer Reports says that could be costing you plenty.

Thanks to television ads, many drugs are household names. And the $4 billion-plus a year that drug companies are spending in direct-to-consumer ads is paying off.

Consumer Reports National Research Center found one in five people who take a prescription "have asked their doctor to prescribe a drug they learned about from advertising." And most of them said their doctors did.

"What the ads don't tell you is that newer medications are often no more effective or safer than older ones," said Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports Health.

Frequently, there are better options at a fraction of the cost. Consumer Reports identifies Best Buy drugs for treating type 2 diabetes, asthma, and dozens of other conditions.

"To earn a Best Buy designation, a drug must be at least as effective and safe as others in its class, based on an independent review of research," said Santa.

And it often costs less. Take prescription Celebrex for joint and muscle aches. At $139 a month, it's a pricey pain reliever compared to generic ibuprofen, a Best Buy drug that costs just $4 a month.

"Many of Consumer Reports Best Buy drugs are generics. We've seen in our surveys that more than 40 percent of people have concerns or misconceptions about generics, but they shouldn't," Santa said.

So the next time you need a prescription, think twice before asking for the one you're seeing advertised.

Consumer Reports says discount drug programs at stores like Kmart, Target, Wal-Mart and Walgreens offer great savings.