Generic vs brand name drugs

by | Sep 13, 2022 | Medicine

Walk down the aisle of any pharmacy or browse your pharmacy online and you will find both generic and brand name products. So what is the difference and which one should you choose?

Generic drugs are copies of brand name drugs that contain the same active ingredients in the same amounts.¹ This means that they have the same intended use, effects, safety profile, dosage and route of administration as the original brand name drug.¹

The main difference between generic and brand name drugs is cost.¹ Generic drugs usually cost much less than brand name drugs.¹1 So how is this possible?

The lifecycle of a new drug

When a new drug is first developed, it is given a patent that lasts for around 20 years.¹ This means that the company that developed the new drug has the exclusive rights to produce and sell the drug during this time.¹ Only once this patent expires can other companies start producing the drug.¹

Once a patent has expired and more than one company is making the drug, this creates competition in the market and can reduce costs.¹ Also, because companies selling the generic drug did not spend resources on developing the drug in the first place, they can usually produce it at a lower cost per unit.¹ This is why generics are typically cheaper than brand name drugs.¹

Generics will often be the first choice for many customers

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration or TGA requires generic drugs to meet the same standards of quality, safety and effectiveness as the first, patented brand name drug.¹ This means that you can be reassured that when you select a generic drug, you are choosing a quality product – usually at a lower cost.¹

Are there any differences between generic and brand name drugs?

While generic and brand name drugs always have the same ‘active’ ingredient (the key chemical that makes the medicine work), there may be other differences.¹ ²

These may include:²

  • shape, size and colour
  • packaging
  • ‘inactive ingredients’ that do not contribute to the treatment effect of the medicine.

Because of these differences, some people may choose not to switch to the generic version to avoid confusion – especially if they take several different medicines.² Other people may choose the generic drug though because they cost less than the brand name drug and have the same effect.²

If you have any questions about whether a generic medicine might be right for you, please speak to your doctor or ask our Pharmacist a question.

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Medically reviewed by Dr Matt Cullen
MBBS, FRANZCP

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