It is well-known that branded medication is more expensive than generic drugs. Many people opt for generic medication over brands because of this, but how much do you really know about why generic drugs exist and the difference between branded and generic?
A generic drug is bioequivalent (containing the same active ingredients) to its branded counterpart. There may be slight differences in the inactive ingredients (which may change the colour and taste of the drug), but the generic drug is otherwise exactly the same as the branded one.
A branded drug will go through an extensive research, development and testing process before being made available to the market. Branded drugs are usually more expensive because the manufacturers need to recover the development, marketing and distribution costs for the branded drug.
Once the branded drug has been approved by the FDA, pharmaceutical manufacturers obtain a patent for the drug, which lasts for 17 years. When the patent runs out, other pharmaceutical manufacturers will then be allowed to develop their own version of the drug, branded and marketed as a generic and most likely named after its active ingredient. A good example is the painkiller brand Panado. You can also buy the generic drug, paracetamol, as an unbranded equivalent.
Generic drugs cost substantially less than branded drugs because the manufacturers of generics don’t incur the same developments costs – the research and development has already been done. This cost saving is passed on to the you which means that your medical aid will be happy with the use of generic drugs and your overall medical costs should be less.
In spite of the bio-equivalency of generic drugs, it’s always best to seek advice from your doctor regarding the most suitable prescription medication you need. Many doctors understand the cost implications of branded drugs and will inform you of the available generics.