A generic drug (generic drugs, short: generics) is a drug defined as "a drug product that is comparable to brand/reference listed drug product in dosage form, strength, route of administration, quality and performance characteristics, and intended use." It has also been defined as a term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without advertising.
Although they may not be associated with a particular company, generic drugs are subject to the regulations of the governments of countries where they are dispensed. Generic drugs are labelled with the name of the manufacturer.
A generic drug must contain the same active ingredients as the original formulation. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are identical or within an acceptable bioequivalent range to the brand name counterpart with respect to pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties. By extension, therefore, generics are considered (by the FDA) identical in dose, strength, route of administration, safety, efficacy, and intended use. The FDA's use of the word identical is very much a legal interpretation, and is not literal. In most cases, generic products are available once the patent protections afforded to the original developer have expired. When generic products become available, the market competition often leads to substantially lower prices for both the original brand name product and the generic forms. The time it takes a generic drug to appear on the market varies. In the US, drug patents give twenty years of protection, but they are applied for before clinical trials begin, so the effective life of a drug patent tends to be between seven and twelve years.
Prescriptions may be issued for drugs specifying only the chemical name, rather than a manufacturer's name; such a prescription can be filled with a drug of any brand meeting the specification. For example a prescription for lansoprazole can be filled with generic lansoprazole, Prevacid, Helicid, Zoton, Inhibitol, or Monolitum.