Why Does My Birth Control Have All These Different Names?

Published: August 5, 2021Updated: November 22, 2022

Toilet paper. Oreos. The knockoff robot vacuum that breaks the first time you use it. Some things, you’re better off *not* buying generic. 

But what about your birth control pills? Is it weird to buy generic birth control, or a smart way to save money? Plus, what’s up with all of the different names you might see your birth control called? We’re breaking it down to make it easier to understand exactly what you’re getting with your birth control.

How generic birth control came to be

Trust us, generic birth control goes through a lot more testing than your generic toilet paper does. Here’s how it works. 

The original manufacturer of a brand name birth control gets the patent, which gives them exclusive rights to market and sell the pill for 20 years. That way, the pharmaceutical company has 20 years to make their money back that went to formulating the drug and doing all the trials.

Once that time is up, it’s fair game for anyone else who wants to manufacture that oral contraceptive—at a lower price. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes sure that the active ingredients in the generic version are the same as what’s in the brand name version. The generic version is basically a copy of the brand name, just in a different color and possibly with some different inactive ingredients. 

For many people who take oral contraceptives, generic birth control is generally a budget-friendly option. It’s low cost, and often free with insurance. At SimpleHealth, for instance, generic birth control typically has a $0 copay with insurance or starting at $15 per month for those paying with cash.

What does “equivalent medications” mean when referring to birth control?

Ah, you’ve clearly browsed through our extensive list of birth control options—good for you! You might have noticed that for many of our medications, we list “Equivalent Medications” in the description. For example, Camila lists 11 equivalent medications. What’s the difference?

In this case, we’re using “equivalent medications” to refer to other brand name birth controls that are basically identical. According to the FDA, medications are pharmaceutical equivalents if they meet three criteria:

  • they have the same active ingredient(s)
  • they have the same dosage form and you take them the same way (i.e., orally)
  • they are identical in strength or concentration

For oral contraceptive (OC) products specifically, the FDA considers generic and brand name OC products clinically equivalent and interchangeable. Let’s go back to Camila as an example. Nor-Qd would be the branded medication (the first and original product of its kind) and Camila, Deblitane, Heather, Nora-Be, and Norlyda are the generic versions.

So, should I take generic birth control?

Ultimately, it’s between you and your doctor. However, for most people, generic birth control provides a nearly identical experience to taking brand name birth control (and at a much lower cost). Talk to your doctor about your reproductive health goals and whether a generic birth control might be right for you. 

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