Generic medicine vs brand name medicine
Navin Khosla has been a registered Pharmacist since 1995. He obtained his B.Pharm Degree in Pharmacy from the London School of Pharmacy, University of London in 1994, and has built a wealth of experience by working across the community pharmacy retail sector.
Generic medicines have the exact same effects as branded medicines, but for a fraction of the price. Is this really the case? Sounds a little too good to be true right? Let’s see.
What is a branded drug?
All drugs have a scientific name, sometimes this is called their generic name. Often they also have a brand name too, like with Viagra. The generic name of the drug is sildenafil citrate, but the company that first made it (Pfizer) chose to sell it under the brand name Viagra.
Viagra is just one example, but most medications have branded versions. Ibuprofen is the generic name of the painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication, but it’s sold under a variety of brand names, like Advil and Bufen. Similarly, finasteride is the generic name of an effective baldness treatment, but it’s also sold under the brand name Propecia.
What is a generic drug?
For lots of drugs you can get generic versions as well as branded ones. Generic medications are copies of branded medications. They have the same active ingredient, the same effect, the same side effects, the same strength and dose and you take them in the same way. The only difference is the lack of branding and the price – generic medications are cheaper than branded ones, often a lot cheaper.
Do generic drugs have the same ingredients?
Generic drugs contain the same active ingredient as their branded versions and so they have the same effect. Generic drugs may have different inactive ingredients, like the preservatives and fillers used to create the pills, but these inactive ingredients won’t affect the way the drug works. One exception is if you have an allergy to one of these different inactive ingredients, but this is rare. You can find a full list of ingredients in all medications in the patient leaflet that comes with them.
What’s the difference between a generic and a brand name drug?
A brand name drug and its generic versions contain the same amount of the same active ingredient and so are pharmacologically identical, meaning they have the same effect on your body. The only difference, other than the name and the packaging and things like the shape and color of the pills, is the price. Generic drugs are usually much cheaper than branded ones.
Why are generic medicines so much cheaper?
The simple answer is because the company selling the generic medicine didn’t have to spend money developing the drug.
New medicines can cost a hell of a lot to produce. The company that first makes them needs to invest in research, development and clinical trials and then it must spend on marketing and promotion to make sure the new drug is a commercial success. This can take years and can cost billions of dollars. So the company that first makes a drug must sell it for a higher price to make sure they make their money back. The companies that make the generic versions don’t have these costs, they just copy the original drug, so they can charge a lower price.
Are generic medicines legal?
Yes, generic medications are perfectly legal, we’re not talking about counterfeit drugs here. Generic drugs are bought in the same places as branded drugs, they’re often sold next to each other on the same shelf.
We can understand why generic drugs may not sound fair. The company that makes the original branded medication spends billions developing the drug, then the generic manufacturers can undercut them selling the exact same product at a lower price.
It’s not quite that simple though. The original maker of a drug is usually offered a patent by the countries it sells in, which means it’s the only company that can sell the drug there for a certain number of years. Pfizer, the company that developed Viagra had a patent in the US which started in 1998 and ran until April 2020 and although they gave another pharmaceutical company called Teva the rights to sell generic versions from December 2017, it still means that they’ve had 20 years of exclusivity to make as much money as they could from Viagra.
After the patent ended in 2020 other manufacturers (aside from Teva) became free to make their own versions of the drug.
Are generic medications as effective as branded ones?
Generic medications are pharmacologically identical to branded ones, which means they contain the same active ingredient (the chemical which gives the drugs its effect), and the same amount of this active ingredient. There’s no real difference between a 50 mg Viagra tablet and a 50 mg sildenafil tablet, so they are just as effective as one another.
There is one slight complication though. There’s something called the placebo effect. This is when someone’s beliefs about a medication can affect how they work. Research has shown some patients report they get better results from branded medications than generic ones because they believe branded medications are more effective, even though they’re identical.
So, although branded and generic drugs are the same the human mind is a funny thing, and some people may find branded drugs work better for them, even if they’re the same.
Are generic drugs safe?
Generic drugs are tested for their bioequivalence to the branded ones they’re based on, meaning they’re effectively the same drugs. This means they’re just as safe as the branded versions and that they have the same benefits and side effects.
Can I buy generic medications FROM MARS?
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- Sildenafil (same active ingredient as Viagra)
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- Vardenafil (same active ingredient as Levitra)