The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs

The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien (header)

If you go to the pharmacy with a new prescription, there’s a good chance you will be asked the following question:

“Do you want the generic rather than the brand name drug?”

Or maybe you’ve been given the generic automatically without even being asked, which is scary.

The question of choosing the brand name or the generic drug may seem simple, especially when the only argument that is provided is that “the generic is much cheaper.” Yet, few people really know the differences between brand name and generic drugs.

In this little cartoon, I offer a somewhat different perspective from what you probably hear usually. My goal is not to be preachy, but rather to invite people to learn more about their medications and make an informed choice. So let’s look together at the REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs.

Below is the PDF version of this comic for those who would like to print and/or save it on their computer.

Declaration of potential conflicts of interest (cool, I’ve always wanted to say that!)
Some will say that I am “biased”, because I work both as a community pharmacist and in the pharmaceutical industry.
My reply to this is that my dual role is PRECISELY why I am not biased. I have the rare opportunity to really know both sides of the story and it is precisely for this reason that I wish to address this topic.

The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : titleThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : variable dose 80 to 125%The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : inactive, non medicinal ingredients can varyThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : price and insuranceThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : transitionThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : brand changes every monthThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : attitude of the pharmacist and pharmacy technicianThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : layoffs in pharma, closed research centres, investments in research and development, Canadians pay more than the Unites StatesThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : no coverage by insurance plans and government, no new medicationsThe REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : what can i do about it (healthcare professionals and government)The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : what can I do about it (general population)The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs - Le Pharmachien : the end

* Source: Report of the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, Sept. 2012 (http://www.chspr.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/publication_files/chspr_wp_law_generic_pricing.pdf)

 

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La VRAIE différence entre les médicaments génériques et originaux - Le Pharmachien : Cliquez ici pour lire la version française

5 Responses to The REAL difference between generic and brand name drugs

  1. thank you, my doctor doesn’t like the fact that i insist on generic always. he says he has to write a stronger dose or more frequent use due to fillers and the like in generic. I told him I didn’t believe him and that and that I believed that the big pharmaceuticles were just greedy. They do research, I agree, but they are also subsidized, not to mention their immense profits. Just guessing, but probably right up there with the oil companies.

    • Hi Ben!

      As a matter fo fact, generics are not “weaker” and/or contain more filling. They are of the same quality as brand name medications.

      That being said, this cartoon aimed at pointing out “other” important issues related to generic drugs, namely:
      - the risks of changing every month from one brand of generic to another;
      - the fact that pharmacists are afraid to openly discuss generic substitution with patients; and
      - the absence of any scientific or intellectual contribution of the generic industry in drug development, which negatively impacts research and the discovery of new drugs.

      Having worked in the innovative pharmaceutical sector myself, I can tell you that the profits are much, much less than they used to be. Sure, pharma companies are still wealthy, but many are struggling. Unfortunately, they are in this position mostly by their own doing. Their current business model just isn’t sustainable anymore.

      People are completely justified in choosing generics. However, I believe that the public must recognize that while generics save money, they do little else. Thinking long-term, we as a society can’t rely on generics alone. We’ll need new ways to ensure to both innovatice and generic companies do what they do best.

      Thanks a lot for your comment!

      Olivier

  2. Lilian Boulanger

    If they pharmacodynamics of a generic and a trade name are the same, why does it matter if the generic brand is changed every month? If they contain the same active ingredients in the same amounts, wouldn’t the therapeutic effect remain the same?

    • Hi Lilian !

      Great question ! The amount of the active ingredient varies slightly between the various generics. In most cases, in makes little or no difference in the efficacy of the medication.

      However, the blood levels of some medications need to stay extremely stable to obtain the right efficacy and/or prevent unwanted events. We say that these medications have a “narrow therapeutic index”, which means the blood levels should vary as little as possible. In such cases, switching from one generic to another can be a problem.

      Another case is a disease that may be aversely affected in the blood levels of the medications vary even slightly. Epilepsy is one of them. Some psychiatric disorders too.

      Medications we need to be more careful with, when switching generics, include warfarin (blood thinner), digoxin (for cardiac insufficiency), anti-epileptic drugs, antiarrhythmics, some psychiatry drugs, etc.

      Thanks again for your comment Lilian !

      Olivier

  3. OK makes sense! Merci bcp Olivier et bonne journée!

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