Improving Adherence to Therapy and Clinical Outcomes While Containing Costs: Opportunities From the Greater Use of Generic Medications: Best Practice Advice From the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2016 Jan 5;164(1):41-9. doi: 10.7326/M14-2427. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


Description: The discrepancy between health care spending and achieved outcomes in the United States has fueled efforts to identify and address situations where unnecessarily expensive therapies are used when less costly, equally effective options are available. The underuse of generic medications is an important example.

Methods: A literature review was conducted to answer 5 questions about generic medications: 1) How commonly are brand-name medications used when a generic version is available? 2) How does the use of generic medications influence adherence? 3) What is the evidence that brand-name and generic medications have similar clinical effects? 4) What are the barriers to increasing the use of generic medications? 5) What strategies can be used to promote cost savings through greater generic medication use? This article was reviewed and approved by the American College of Physicians Clinical Guidelines Committee.

Best practice advice: Clinicians should prescribe generic medications, if possible, rather than more expensive brand-name medications.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost Savings*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Drugs, Generic / economics*
  • Drugs, Generic / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • United States


  • Drugs, Generic