Branded vs. generic U.S. drug prescriptions dispensed 2005-2018

The proportion of branded vs. generic drug prescription dispensed in the U.S. has decreased since 2005. In 2005, some 40 percent of prescriptions dispensed were brand name drugs and around 50 percent of drugs dispensed were unbranded generic drugs. For comparison, in 2018, only 10 percent of prescriptions were brand-name drugs while over 85 percent were unbranded generic drugs.

What are generics?

Generic medications are drugs created with the same ingredients as brand-name drugs, but are not created under the umbrella of a brand. They are made to work exactly the same way that brand-name drugs work but are often cheaper. The top generic drug companies in the U.S. include Teva, Mylan and Novartis. Generic drugs provide a large proportion of all pharmaceuticals dispensed. Among all pharmaceutical products dispensed in the U.S., levothyroxine, a drug used to treat hypothyroidism, was the top drug based on number of prescriptions dispensed.

Cost savings through generics

Generic drugs provide an immense amount of savings for consumers in the U.S. The amount of money saved by the U.S. health system through generic usage has more than doubled since 2008. Direct savings for consumers depends on the payer. Commercial insurance coverage had the highest degree of cost savings in the U.S. and those that paid out-of-pocket had the lowest savings as of 2017. However, branded drugs still account for almost three quarters of total U.S. pharmaceutical market revenues.

Proportion of branded versus generic drug prescriptions dispensed 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 reports.

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