At Pharmacy Direct we are committed to helping our customers and patients save. Where equivalent “generic medicines” (less expensive brands) exist on prescription medicines, you will be either asked (if in store) or given the choice to substitute for these. These “generics” are not inferior nor do they compromise in quality or strength, but are less expensive due to the companies being more competitive in pricing.
What is a generic medicine?
A generic medicine is an alternative brand of an existing medicine that has been on the market for many years. It contains the same active ingredient (the chemical that makes the medicine work) as the existing medicine; in the same dose and strength; has the same onset of action; stays in the body for the same amount of time; and works in the same way as its brand name equivalent.
The government, through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), applies the same strict regulatory criteria to the generic medicine as are applied to the originator brand, ensuring its safety, effectiveness and quality is to high standards. Generic medicines are therefore considered to be interchangeable with the brand equivalent without compromising patient care.
Why would I want to use a generic medicine?
Firstly because they often cost you less, which provides you better value for money. And secondly, they also provide value for money for our health system because of the way medicines are subsidised by the government.
Are there any differences in the quality of their ingredients?
All ingredients – active or inactive – in any medicine, be it expensive brand or generic, must be evaluated for quality, safety and effectiveness, and approved for sale by the TGA before introduction into the market, and regularly thereafter.
All ingredients in a medicine are listed at the end of the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) document that is available for every medicine.
All medicine manufacturers must comply with the globally recognised standards of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for their medicines to be sold on the Australian market. The TGA won't permit medicines made in substandard facilities, and conducts both routine and unannounced inspections to ensure standards are met.
If they are the same, why do they sometimes look or taste different?
Although they work the same and have the same active ingredient, generic prescription medicines may not look the same as the original medicine¹. All medicines contain inactive ingredients (excipients) as well as active ingredient(s), and these inactive ingredients are often different in the generic medicine. Excipients that make the generic medicine look or taste different to the originator are still carefully chosen so that they do not affect the way the active ingredient works.
Why are branded medicines more expensive than generic medicines?
When a medicine is discovered, the company that develops it may apply for a patent. The patent provides the company with a competition-free period of up to 25 years, to allow it to recover research and development costs and profit from the discovery. A generic medicine can enter the market when this patent has expired. Generic medicines are less expensive because the manufacturers don't have the initial investment costs of the developing company.
Further, when generic medicines enter the market, there is greater competition, which can bring prices down. The government also subsidises medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, some brands charge a higher price than the government is willing to subsidise. The difference between the subsidised price and full price is passed on to the consumer by the manufacturer as a brand premium.
How will my doctor feel if I take a generic medicine instead of the expensive brand?
Many doctors are happy for you to choose which brand of your medicine you wish to take. If, for some reason, the doctor wants you to take a specific brand, they will make this known to the pharmacist by filling in a particular section of the prescription. Ask your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about switching between brands of medicine².
References 1, 2 TGA Generic prescription medicines: Fact sheet
, accessed 9 June, 2016.