Target Generic Costs Less, But It's 1/2 Strength

Conventional thinking says that you should buy based on better unit price, but Target knows this and has figured out a way to trick you. On the left is a name brand joint-strengthener, on the right, Target’s generic. Going just by unit price, Target looks like the better deal. But let’s see what’s going on on the back label…

They’re not the same after all. The Target generic on the right is 1/2 the strength of the name brand on the left. How? Check the dosing…your recommended intake of the generic is twice as much as the name brand. So in this case, the generic is not only cheaper, it’s inferior.

It’s not enough to just read the price tags, also check out the product labels to make sure you’re really comparing apples with apples.

(Thanks to Bruce!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. wiggatron says:

    2 x 60 = 120
    4 x 30 = 120

    Those are “servings per container”, not number of pills total in the bottle. Same number of pills, different recommended doses.

  2. I notice this when I buy certain brands even at Costco. I want max strength antacids and the normal Costco ones don’t come in that type which means I’d need to take 4 to = 1 xtra strength Tums one.. which is more expensive but evens out when you factor in the dosage.

  3. Bakkster_Man says:

    @wiggatron: Exactly. Same number of pills, so that makes the Target brand half as effective.

  4. tedyc03 says:

    This is the exact reason I always check the dosage information before buying generic.

  5. I speak from looking at these bottles in the store one day. Osteo-Bi-Flex has MANY different strengths/formulations. It’s mostly based on how many pills you want to take in a day. I don’t expect Target to make a generic for every variety of Osteo-Bi-Flex, just the most popular. It may SEEM like this is the generic equivalent, but I’m guessing if you looked at the whole shelf, you would see the Osteo this generic is duplicating.

  6. illtron says:

    Anytime you buy over-the-counter medicine or supplements, you should check the strength. Nobody ever said saving money wouldn’t involve math.

  7. Can we please see the total milligrams of product in each container? Without that information, this is a useless comparison.

  8. SunnyLea says:
  9. ObtuseGoose says:

    I love Target as much as the next person. But this almost seems like fraud. The Target packaging says “Compare to Osteo Bi-Flex” Doesn’t that imply they are the same exact product?

  10. fredmertz says:

    thebigger ripoff is that there is no evidence that taking glucosamine or chondroiton has any beneficial impact on your health.

  11. Quilt says:

    You get what you paid for.

  12. @ObtuseGoose: The Target product says “Compare to the ingredients of Osteo Bi-Flex”. Osteo Bi-Flex products usually contain the same ingredients, just in different dosages. So if you only want to take two pills a day, they have a two pill formula. The Osteo box featured in the pic is their “Triple Strength”. They offer five formulas on their website:Advanced,Triple Strength,Plus MSM,Double Strength, and Regular Strength. Their Regular Strength requires you to take SIX pills a day, their Double is three pills, and their Triple and Advanced is two. The Target Generic seems to be equivalent of the regular strength.

  13. WaywardSoul says:

    @fredmertz – Back 10 years or so I was hitting the weights heavy and found that Twinlab’s Glucosamine Sulfate would help tremendously with my shoulder pain. It never helped with pain in any other joint though – much as I wished it would.

    Interestingly, within thirty minutes of taking a dose (if I hadn’t been taking it for a while) my nose would start tingling. Everyone else I talked to experienced the same. Many wouldn’t take it because they feared the cartilege in their noses would grow because of that reaction.

    Also interesting – NONE of the other glucosamine products on the market that I’ve tried in recent years has that effect on me. They also fail to ease my shoulder pain when I’m in a workout mood. Also interesting – any product containing chondroiton makes me ill, sometimes very ill for higher doses, for a couple hours after taking it.

  14. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    @fredmertz: @WaywardSoul: I take these daily, and it really does seem to make a difference (I understand the whole placebo effect could be taking part here).

    However, recently we started giving our 13 year old collie (who has bad hip/lower back problems, has a hard time getting herself up on tile, etc) these in lieu of her super expensive vet-prescribed pills, and they really are making a difference. Not only do they seem to be working better than the prescription, there is no placebo effect since she obviously doesn’t know the difference.

  15. @WaywardSoul: Do you have a shellfish sensitivity?

  16. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    @fredmertz Actually, my fiance took part in a blind trial for a glucosamine supplement, and it DID have a beneficial effect on his health. He has fibromyalgia.

  17. Sockatume says:

    If it was a blind trial, isn’t there a 50:50 chance he just got the placebo? ;)

  18. CharlesjP says:

    Wouldn’t it depend on the active ingredient? The dosage and amount of pills could both be different, but if the active ingredient makes up for it theres no problem.

  19. ryatziv says:

    You showed us the “unit” price, but you didn’t specify what a “unit” is…

  20. GrumpyMD says:

    The Vitamin C and the Manganese seem to be the same in both boxes, which is the actual beneficial component of the pills.

    Here’s the lowdown on glucosamine/chondroitin:

    If you’re too lazy to read the article, I’ll summarize it for you:

    Glucosamine and chondroitin: As useful as placebo.

    The glucosamine is identical to the experimental dose, 1500 mg.

    As for the chondroitin, the boxes above don’t mention how much is in them. In the experiment, 1200 mg of chondroitin was used.

    On the other hand, given the serving size, you ARE still getting 1/2 as much placebo for your money…

  21. stre says:

    @idledebonair: incorrect. if you’re paying to be relieved of your pain, i think it’s perfectly fair to compare prices based on number of doses per bottle, since you’re paying for the whole bottle. regardless of the size of pills, if you get twice as many doses (note that both are once daily, since this would make a difference) for an extra ~$5, you’re quite obviously getting a better deal on the name brand, not the generic.

  22. Gannoc says:

    @12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich:

    There could be another type of effect going on, though: You obviously tried the cheaper pills because you wanted to save money, which has you actively hoping that the cheaper pills work better. You are more likely to attribute positive signs as proof that the new pills are working and are more likely to attribute negative signs to external reasons.

    I’m not saying you’re doing that, of course, but it is something that could bias your results.

  23. crashfrog says:

    If there’s no established dose concentration, then you can’t really make any claims about which box of pills has more, or is more effective, just based on recommended pill servings. Target may simply want you to take more at once so you run out of pills faster.

    Furthermore, increased concentrations may not make any difference. Water-soluble vitamins are like this – doubling the dosage per day doesn’t do anything but waste your money and give you rich, vitamin-fortified urine. (Fat-soluble vitamins will just poison you to death.)

  24. artki says:

    Same thing can happen with Bleach. I saw a generic bottle had 3-3.5% of the active ingredient while the name brand had 7%. The generic was cheaper but it wasn’t 50% cheaper.

  25. bspero says:

    @ Git em SteveDave
    You are correct, there are a few different strengths, but the price tags list both the Target brand, and the name brand as 120 count, “Triple Strength.” I’m not saying you don’t have to read the doses, etc., but it does seem to bill the product as the generic equivalent.

  26. kerry says:

    @12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich: This might sound crazy, but we did acupuncture on our 13-year-old collie mix for the last year of his life (he died a couple months shy of his 14th birthday) and it helped relieve the pain in his hindquarters significantly.
    My parents are both very athletic and used to take chondroitin and glucosamine supplements about 10 years ago. They both gave up because the effect wasn’t great enough to justify the cost. I suspect individual results vary greatly with these types of supplements.

  27. Kali Mama says:

    @12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich: Look up placebo by proxy. You’re the one dispensing the dosage AND looking for signs of improvement, and a pet might be motivated by your extra care to liven up a bit. There’s too many variables and a sample size of one.

  28. Antediluvian says:

    This was covered by Consumer Reports several years ago. I found it helpful — it wasn’t something I’d noticed before, but now I see it all the time.

    It means there’s extra math involved in determining what product to buy, but there’s nothing deceptive about it.

    Anyone who’s taking medication or supplements needs to know their actual dose, not just the number of pills, because the dosage WILL vary between brands and product lines.

    And sometimes it’s better to have the lower dosages available, even if it means taking more pills. Costco had ranitidine at 75mg / pill, compared to the name-brand at 150mg / pill, so you’d need 2x as many pills. But the COST of the Costco brand’s bottle (same number of pills) was <1/4 of the name-brand, so the DOSAGE cost was more than 50% cheaper.

    It all comes down to math.

  29. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    Ha. Your body can only absorb about 500mg anyway. The only Vitamin/nutrient you can take more of is Vitamin C as it is not stored.

    @GrumpyMD: Here’s the lowdown on glucosamine/chondroitin: []


  30. Parapraxis says:


    even with vitamin c, there’s a transport maximum of absorption through the villi of the small intestine.

    The major vitamins that can be stored are all fat soluble. (A,D,E,K).

    The only way to absorb “more” vitamin C is to space out your dosages, so the cumulative does not exceed the transport maximum at any time.

    Otherwise, it just ends up in your pee. (of course, you could just drink it again)

  31. @artki: Was it scented bleach? Consumerist had a story about how scented bleach contains less bleach vs. unscented.

  32. mountaindew says:

    @rainmkr: Yes, same issue at Kroger and Walmart too.

  33. jfarnsy says:

    Yeah, noticed that generics products aren’t even safe – I listen to my dentist and floss. Best deal ever was always Wal-Mart’s mint waxed Equate brand @ $.87 for 125 yards.

    Yesterday, was in WM needing some floss, and noticed that the price is still $.87 – but now, the dreaded shrink ray has more than doubled the price per yard – you only get 55 yds for that $.87!

  34. RodB says:

    The significant ingredients are the glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. Ideally each would be listed out separately but this is not the case for either product here.

    Brand name (per 2 pills): 2g glucosamine, 1.25g chondroitin/MSM combination

    Generic (per 4 pills): 2g glucosamine, UNKNOWN amount chondroitin or MSM (2g of a combination including other ingredients but no breakdown for the important ones is given)

    So the generic is at least half as weak and probably even weaker, but you should never buy it anyway, if only because it doesn’t list the amount of chondroitin or MSM.

  35. RodB says:

    @GrumpyMD: NEJM is reputable but many joint studies have come out since 2006 which dispute the conclusions of the one you posted. A quick PubMed search on the ingredients will give you these results. Abstracts are free to read so the conclusions can be accessed by anyone here.

  36. wiggatron says:

    Looking at the “proprietary blend” on both boxes we can now see that the name brand consists of 1.5g of “blend” (per dose, 2 pills), while the Target Generic contains 2.0g (per dose, 4 pills). So 2 name brand pills = 1.5g of p. blend, while 3 generic also equals 1.5g. So is the generic actually 2/3 strength?

  37. Mary says:

    As someone else noted, the Osteo Bi-flex in the photo is “Triple strength,” while the Target type is regular, so right off the bat it’s immediately clear that it’s not apples v apples.

    The logical thing would be to compare the regular strength store brand with the regular strength name brand, and the extra strength store brand with the extra strength name brand, etc.

  38. NinjaMarion says:

    @Antediluvian: Yeah, but as already explained by Git Em SteveDave displays attention-grabbing vanity, there are multiple formulas of the stuff, so when compared to the correct formula of Osteo Bi-Flex, the Target brand compares exactly, but at a much lower cost. There really is no story here unless the box said compare to Osteo Bi-Flex Triple Strength but required double the pills.

    Much like you said regarding Costco and their ranitidine tablets, the brand name Zantac comes in multiple strengths (75mg, 150mg, and prescription-only 300mg). If you were to compare the generic Target 75mg to the 150mg Zantac, of course you’re going to be taking twice as many pills as is the case with this generic Osteo Bi-Flex. If you properly compare the correct formulas, Target also has a Maximum Strength Acid Reducer, which at 150mg of ranitidine per pill, compares exactly with the active ingredient of Maximum Strength Zantac. In fact, it not only contains the same amount of ranitidine per pill, but a similar quantity of pills (not counting special bottles of Zantac where you “Get 25% more!” or something), and does so at less than a quarter of the price ($4 for a 65 count bottle of the Target brand versus $18 for a 65 count [or 80 with special “Get more” bottle] of Zantac).

    If you actually pay attention and compare the right products, Target’s generic medications are a much better value than the name brand stuff they also sell.

  39. springboks says:

    There’s even an invitation to compare the Target (Generic product) to “Osteo Bi-Flex”. Not really much of a story. It would prolly work for someone seeking some low strength stuff.

  40. bspero says:

    This Target brand is priced as “Triple Strength”, immediately next to the box of Osteo B-Flex triple strength. So, this is an attempt at a direct comparison by Target.

  41. Antediluvian says:

    @NinjaMarion: “If you actually pay attention and compare the right products, Target’s generic medications are a much better value than the name brand stuff they also sell”

    I thought this was the exact point I was making in my comment. It certainly was my intention. Was my post misunderstood?

    My intended point, as illustrated by the Costco ranitidine tablets, is that the store-brand are often better values, but to get an accurate comparison, you have to do more math. The math means figuring out the cost per dose, not necessarily the cost per pill or the cost per bottle.

  42. Antediluvian says:

    @NinjaMarion: Re-reading my comment, I think maybe this is the confusing part: “this was covered by CR several years ago.”

    By that I meant CR said you need to do extra math because sometimes the store-brand items will be a different strength than the name brands.

    I figured everyone knew this by now but I think I spend more time in the pill aisles with the calculator than normal people. I can certainly see how easy it is to be confused even by the clearest of text on drug packages.

  43. dragonvpm says:

    Well, there is the matter of sticking them right next to each other to (apparently) make them look like apples to apples. It would be nice to see a wider angle to see if there are _any_ other boxes of either, but from the photos it does look like the generics were at least meant to look comparable to the name brand.

  44. arthur055302 says:

    Unit price per 100 count–namely the price for 100 pills.


    Since the % daily value is calculated based on the recommended daily intake amount, we can use that to calculate the actual milligrams each bottle contains. But there is no need to do this because the recommended amount is the same.

    So you can compare the percentage directly. As you can see, the values are exactly the same; however, the genereic brand needs 4 pills to achieve this percentage, while the other needs 2 only.

    I hope that makes sense to you.

  45. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @SunnyLea: Why are you posting a comment just to say “me too”? Please, people, add thoughts of your own if you want to comment.

  46. GrumpyMD says:


    Which studies are you talking about? At best, most of the studies that you can find on pub med at best say that there is some rationale for further study.

    For instance, here’s the Cleveland Clinic’s conclusion (from pub med):

    Here’s a more recent study again showing no benefit to GC/Chon therapy:

    Another one detailing the lack of benefit in reversing Osteoarthritis:

    Perhaps you are only focusing on the POTENTIAL benefit for GC/Chon therapy, like this study:

    Again, another study demonstrating no clinical benefit to GC/Chon:

    Oh, here’s a bone for ya, one study which is still not fully published, which claims there’s some benefit:

    Back yourself up on pub med before talking. And try to do it with studies where there were at least 1500 subjects analyzed over at least 24 weeks, like the New England study, or don’t bother commenting if you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

  47. Rxram says:

    Great job with the fact checking on this one. GC is available as either Triple Strength or Double Strength… Which is what you are seeing here. This article was a waste of time

  48. Phexerian says:

    @GrumpyMD: Regarding Glucosamine and Chondroitin, it has been shown to be beneficial in osteoarthritis.

    As to some of your claims in your last post, you state there is a lack of benefit in reversing osteoarthritis. Of course you aren’t going to reverse it with this. Neither is celebrex or most other drugs that I know of. Not to mention, your link under “more recent study showing no benefit to GC/Chon therapy, is a sample population of 72, yet you want someone to post a study with at least 1500 subjects. Not a very consistent argument so far.

    Another of the studies that you posted state, “On the basis of the results of recent randomized controlled trials and meta-analysis, we can conclude that glucosamine sulfate (but not glucosamine hydrochloride) and chondroitin sulfate have small-to-moderate symptomatic efficacy in OA, although this is still debated”.

    So this is some evidence that it helps OA.

    Another study you posted states, “These data are of major significance and may help to explain how these two drugs exert a positive effect on OA pathophysiology.”

    Another positive effect of GC/Chon therapy.

    The big meta analysis looks fairly strong, but honestly, I don’t have the time to read and and rip it apart as I am in school at the moment. I’ll just go ahead and give you that one. Honestly, as complex of a design as it looks, I’m sure there is quite a bit of possible bias in their study.

    Now, as for my sources, I use natural medicines comprehensive database which is basically the pharmacist bible for alternative and supplemental medicine. It is referenced and put together by a slurry of pharmacists and physicians.

    Looking up Chon, we get “Likely effective…when used orally for improving the symptoms of OA.” Referenced from Micromedex healthcare series Vol 101, another study in Rheumatol 1996:23(8):1385-91, another French study by Conrozier T published in Presse Med in 1998, another study by Ronca F et al published in 1998 in Osteoarthritis Cartilage 1998, Uebelhatd D and others in the sme journal in 1998, another by Bourgeois P and others published yet again in the same journal in 1998.

    Glucosamine is also stated in NMCD as “Likely effective when used orally short term for treating OA. But insufficient info for long term treatment. Referenced from The review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons in 1999, another by Qui GX et all in Arzneimittelforschung in 1998, another by Reichelt A in same journal in 1994, and another by Foster KK et al in Euro J Clin Pharmacol in 1996.

    Another interesting study is one done by Leffler CT et al which was a double blind placebo controlled pilot study back in 1999 and was published in Mil Med. It stated GC/Chon with manganese ascorbate lowers pain for patients.

    While my sources my be at the 10 year mark, they are still valid sources and some of them somewhat strong. It doesn’t look like any of the studies I listed were funded by big pharma either. Don’t know if I could say the same about your sources. Of course they may not be. I dont know.

    Certainly many of my studies, as well as some of yours, state that it is better than a placebo. I suggest you pick up a copy of the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. You can get a version thats 2-5 years old for 25-40 bucks on Ebay.

    Quite honestly, I have no problem recommending a patient take GC/Chon for OA in my pharmacy. I have counseled patients to do so in the past and will continue to do so until an extremely strong study comes out that says it is useless and has a high potential to harm patients. Overall, it is pretty safe and seems to work for a lot of the patients I see as well.

    Looks like an employee at target just put the wrong product next to the Osteoflex. Generally other store staff stock the OTC section of a pharmacy, not the pharmacy staff. I don’t think target deserves to be lambasted over something so trivial.

    -3rd Year PharmD / MBA Candidate

  49. NinjaMarion says:

    @bspero: No it’s not. There’s a price tag under it that says what the price of the triple strength Target brand is, but as you can VERY clearly see, nowhere on that package does it say triple strength. Target labels their medications properly, so if that box that requires double the pills were actually the triple strength, it would say so. Also right on the other side of the actual Osteo Bi-Flex is more of the same Target brand stuff. More than likely, either someone put that one box back in the wrong spot or the person that sent in the picture put it there just to have something to send in to Consumerist, because there really is no deception or story here. Thisis the stuff that it compares to (Notice how it says “Compare to the ingredients of Osteo Bi-Flex +” which also comes in 120 count packages and requires you to take four pills per day).

    Simply put, this picture is like comparing the price between a two-liter bottle of generic cola and a can of Pepsi. They’re not the same and shouldn’t be compared as such.

  50. NinjaMarion says:

    @Antediluvian: Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing with you really, just pointing out that you don’t even need to bring math into it in this case (And many others, like the ranitidine), you just need to actually compare to the right thing which was not done by the person that sent this in. If it were being compared to the Osteo Bi-Flex Plus, or comparing the actual triple strength Target stuff to the triple strength Osteo Bi-Flex, I’d be willing to bet that the ingredients and dosages would be pretty much the same with the Target one being greatly cheaper.

    The last line there was just to sum up that Target generics are actually pretty awesome for everyone else reading the comments. Hell, even as far as generics go, they’re a good value. Their stuff is usually at least a couple dollars cheaper than generics at Meijer, Walmart, Walgreen’s, and various other places. Target’s 60 count generic Claritin (Loratadine) is only about $8-9, while Walgreen’s is $14 for the 30 count.

  51. Antediluvian says:

    @NinjaMarion: And’s generic Claritin (Loratadine)is 300 tablets for $11 (and I think it’s even cheaper in the stores). I was shocked at the huge savings on some common drugs at Costco. And no, I’m not a shill.

  52. Antediluvian says:

    @NinjaMarion: Actually, I think you _do_ have to do the math most of the time because of the following situations:
    – not carrying the generics in the same exact formulations as the name-brands (namebrands in 1x, 2x, 3x strength, generics only in 1x (most common)
    – different strength pills (75mg / tablet vs 150mg, even if all desired forumlations are available)
    – different numbers of pills per bottle (100 pills vs 120 vs 30 vs 85, and those “20% more free” packages)

    Sometimes the generics are 1x and the pills in multiples of the dosage to compare with the name-brands’ “extra-strength” formulations (60 pills of generic 1x vs 30 pills of name-brand 2x). But more often than not, I’ve found 100 pills of generic 1x for &8 vs 60 pills of 2x name-brand for $11.

    It’s not always clear which is the better value. I’ve seen times the name-brand higher-strength pills are a better value than the generics, but there are also times when I don’t WANT the higher-strength dose (because I want to take only as much as I need). Ranitidine at Costco is an example — they stopped carrying their own brand in 75mg pills and now only carry 150mg pills. There are times I only want 75mg of the stuff. :-(

    So I think math is required more often than not. The math isn’t difficult, but it’s usually more than I can do in my head. :-)

  53. adamwinn says:

    Isn’t it possible that the generic box was in the wrong shelf location? I would have checked the SKU on the box versus the SKU on the shelf-tag, especially because the box has no mention of being triple-strength.

  54. blackmage439 says:

    It would be fine if the generic was half-cost. Seeing as the generic is only ~25% cheaper, this is a blatant rip-off. For shame, Target. Is there no 2-for-1 “deal” or generic pricing you can’t screw up?