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Health Matters

November 05, 2013
Generic Drugs vs. Brand Name Drugs. What’s The Difference?

Generic vs. Brand Name DrugsWhen your doctor hands you a prescription, you might have noticed two separate places for a signature. Under one line, it reads “Dispense as Written,” and under the other, “Substitution Permitted.” What exactly do these lines mean? Why would your doctor give the pharmacist permission to make a substitution for the prescribed medication?

Most people who take medications are aware that generic versions of more expensive name-brand medications are available and can save them money. However, many are skeptical of the claim that a generically produced drug will work exactly the same way as the name brand. After all, we’ve all purchased store-brand products and been disappointed when they didn’t taste as good or work as well as their brand-name counterparts.

Are Generic Drugs Really the Same as Brand Name Drugs?

Before a generic medication can come to market, it must undergo rigorous testing that proves to the appropriate regulatory agency (the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and Health Canada in Canada) that it works in the same way as the original formulation.

For example:

– It must contain the exact same amount of the same active ingredient.
– It must disperse that ingredient at the same rate.
– It must be ingested via the same route.

Studies must also be done that demonstrate clinically that these conditions have been met.

When you receive a generic drug in your prescription, however, it may look different. It might be a different color, shape or size. This is because the inactive ingredients such as the fillers and dyes can be different provided that they do not affect the efficacy of the medication.

Some very slight variability is allowed by the regulatory agencies, but these slight variations occur in manufacturing regardless of whether the medication is branded or generic. How much variation is allowable differs from medication to medication. For example, a medication with incremental dosages such as certain blood thinners or thyroid replacement medications will have much more stringent requirements to prevent an accidental overdose or underdose.

My Friend Says Generics Don’t Work as Well

Some people do report that generic medications work differently for them than brand-name medications. This may occur for a few reasons.

If a person holds a strong belief that a brand-name medication is of higher quality than a generic medication, they may experience a placebo-like effect. They may perceive that the medication is working better. This is particularly true for medications that have an immediate effect such as pain relievers.

Others may experience an adverse reaction or even an allergy to one of the filler ingredients. Different starches used to make up the bulk of the oral tablet may have an effect on someone with a corn allergy or celiac disease, and many people experience sensitivities to different food dyes.

These reactions are typically unusual, and some brand name medications have generics produced by different manufacturers, so it’s worth investigating another generic if one appears to cause you problems.

What’s the Advantage of Generic Drugs?

Generic drugs are available for a considerably lower cost than brand-name medications. In fact, when different manufacturers are creating a generic drug, you could see prices anywhere from 50 to even 95 percent lower than the price of the brand-name drug! Take for example Strattera, a popular medication for the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The PharmacyChecker.com blog reports that a pack of 90 capsules of brand name Strattera 25mg  purchased in New York cost $828. That’s $9.20 per capsule. The brand name drug purchased from The Canadian Pharmacy costs $4.84 per capsule and the generic drug costs just $3.79 per capsule. That’s a savings of $5.41 per capsule on our generic product vs. the cost of the brand name drug purchased in the U.S.!

If your insurance covers prescription medications, you’ll find that you pay a much lower copay for generics than for brand-name drugs. Many hospitals, government-run or HMO-based pharmacies use generics exclusively because of the substantial cost savings. When given a choice, a large percentage of consumers prefer generic medications.

At The Canadian Pharmacy, we offer generic medications from Canada at low prices to help you save money on your prescription drugs and other pharmaceutical products. All of our medications have been approved by either the U.S. FDA or Health Canada.

To learn more about how Health Canada ensures the quality of generic drugs read the “The Safety and Effectiveness of Generic Drugs” leaflet by Health Canada.

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