U.S. brand and generic prescription drug revenue 2005-2018

In the United States, approximately 482 billion U.S. dollars was spent on medicines in 2018. Around 21 percent of this figure was spent on generic drugs, with sales of branded generics and unbranded generics accounting for similar shares.

Why are branded drugs more expensive?

Sales of brand name drugs account for nearly 80 percent of the total amount of money spent on medicines in the United States in 2018. One explanation for this large share is that brand name drugs can cost considerably more than generic versions. When a pharmaceutical company is granted a patent for a drug, key processes and active ingredients are protected; this exclusivity allows firms to price a product at what the market will bear. The brand name drug Humira is marketed at a high price in the United States, and sales of the drug generated around 18 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.

What’s in a name? Knowing your medication types

A brand name drug is manufactured and marketed by a pharmaceutical company that owns the patent. When the patent expires, it is common for generic drugs to enter the market. These are almost identical versions of the brand name drug but are developed by competitors. Generic drugs are often sold under its chemical name but can also be assigned new brand names. If the latter is the case, the drug becomes known as branded generic.

Proportion of branded versus generic prescription drug revenues in the United States from 2005 to 2018

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Release date

May 2019


United States

Survey time period

2005 to 2018

Supplementary notes

Report reflects prescription-bound products including insulins and excluding other products such as OTC. Includes prescriptions and insulins dispensed by chain and independent pharmacies, food store pharmacies, mail service pharmacies, and long-term care facilities. Spending figures also include sales into hospitals, clinics, and other institutional settings. Prescription counts are not adjusted for length of therapy. 90-day and 30-day prescriptions are both counted as one prescription.
This statistic was assembled from several IMS Health/QuintilesIMS/IQVIA reports.

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