Generic drugs

You may be wondering why you need to know the difference between generic drugs and brand name drugs. It is important that you know the basics about the medications that your healthcare practitioner prescribes. Knowing the difference between generic and brand name medicines is the first step.

Brand name medications

Developing a medication cost a lot of money and is a huge investment. This money is spent on research to develop a dug that is both effective and safe to use. Drug companies also have to declare the composition of their drugs. This means that generic drug companies can easily copy it and make generic medicines that contain the active ingredients.

To prevent these generic drug companies from doing this until the brand name companies have recouped the money, these brand name companies often use patent protection to be the sole company with the right to sell the brand name drug while the patent is still in place. If the drug fulfils all requirements and is approved by regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the united states of America and MHRA in the United kingdom, it would usually be approved under both the generic name and brand name.

generic drugs
Generic drugs-  Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

Sometimes, the sponsor company or brand name company may extend the patent if they think they have not recouped the money spent on the development of the medication or for other reasons like in the case of the generic drug apixaban (brand name Eliquis) which was developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc.

On August 5, 2020, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc. got a court ruling which upheld two patents on their medication.  This meant that the generic versions of apixaban (Eliquis) from generic drug manufacturers like Sigmapharm, Unichem and Sunshine Lake, infringe on the Eliquis patents and cannot be marketed till 2026.

Most prescriptions filled in the United States and many other countries are for generic drugs. This is because generic drugs are often cheaper than their brand name counterparts.

So in summary, the generic name already exists but the company who developed the drug, with the use of patents, gets the exclusive right to sell that drug in a given period. This company that developed the drug in an attempt to recover the amount spent on research and development and marketing costs will mean the price of the brand name drug ends of being expensive.

What are generic drugs?

When the patent which allows the brand name company to exclusively sell the medication expires, other drug companies can then manufacture, get their medication approved by the regulatory bodies and sell the generic versions of the drug under its generic name. As these generic manufacturers did not spend money in the research and development of the drug, like in the case of the brand name manufacturer, their drugs usually end up being cheaper. It is important to note that the generic drug manufacturer will also manufacture to the same standard as the brand name and they will be required to pass the same quality specifications as those of brand name drugs.

Generic drugs vs Brand name

The brand name of a drug is the name given by the company which manufactures it. It is usually done to make it easier to remember, pronounce and for branding marketing purposes.  The generic name of the drug, in contrast, is the name of the active ingredient contained in the drug. 

While the active ingredients of the generic and brand name are the same the inactive ingredients like the colouring and flavouring’s will be different. As a result of trademark laws in so many countries, the generic medication cannot look like the brand name. However, to get approval, theses difference cannot affect the effectiveness and safety of the drug.

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