Generic or brand-name prescription drugs? A Harris Poll examines Americans' preference


NEW YORK — A new Harris Poll finds Americans favor generic prescription drugs over brand name products by a considerable margin.

Eighty-one percent of those who buy prescription drugs say they would purchase generics more often than brand-name drugs. A 42% subset goes so far as to assert that they would "always" choose to buy a generic drug. Older generations are especially likely to indicate that they would always go with generics (50% matures, 44% baby boomers, and 46% Gen X versus 33% millennials).

Meanwhile, 19% of those who purchase prescription drugs would more often choose to fill their script with the brand-name drug, and a mere 6% would "always" choose brand names. It is worth noting, however, that though majorities of adults both with and without children in their households favor generics, the minority preference for brand names is stronger among those with children in the household (24% with versus 17% without).

The Harris Poll was conducted among 2,255 U.S. adults surveyed online between Nov. 12 and 17, 2014.

When it comes down to the money

According to the findings, though an admittedly low percentage of generic drug buyers are unwilling to pay any out-of-pocket costs, the percentage has doubled in the past six years from 4% in 2008 to 8% now. Meanwhile, half (50%) of those who would buy generic drugs say they would be willing to pay $10 or less for a 30-day supply, 28% would pay between $10.01 and $25, and 11% would be open to out-of-pocket expenses between $25.01 and $50. Only 4% would shell out more than $50 to get their prescription filled with a generic.


Interestingly, millennials, men and those with children in their households are all more likely than their counterparts to say they would pay more than $10 out-of-pocket for generic prescription drugs.

  • 52% of millennials versus 41% Gen Xers, 37% baby boomers and 38% matures

  • 47% of men versus 38% of women

  • 50% of adults with children in their households versus 40% of adults with no children in their households

Where to get the goods

Nine-in-10 adults buy prescription drugs (89%), but no single-purchase channel garners a majority of this business. However, a 32% plurality fills their prescriptions at chain drug stores. Meanwhile, nearly 2-in-10 of respondents said that they obtain prescription drugs at discount store pharmacies (17%), while more than 1-in-10 do so online or by mail order (14%) and at supermarket pharmacies (11%). Less than 10% visit local independent pharmacies (7%) and pharmacies at hospitals or medical centers (5%).

According to the survey, millennials are less likely than their elders to purchase prescription drugs at all (82% versus 91% Gen X, 92% baby boomers, and 96% matures). However, when they do need to fill a script, they and members of Gen X are most likely to do so at chain drug stores (41% millennials and 36% Gen X versus 24% each baby boomers and matures). In an interesting reversal, millennials — often noted for their more intense online presence as compared with their elders — are less likely than any other generation to obtain prescription drugs online or by mail order (3% millennials versus 13% Gen X, 21% baby boomers, and 26% matures).

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