Generic Drugs

What is a generic drug?

Generic drugs, which are also referred as generics, are a category of drugs which is manufactures and sold without the protection of patent. They are bio equivalent to drugs sold under brand names. As such they are identical in efficacy, safety, method of administration and dosage. Generic drugs are also identical in chemical composition to their branded counterparts. However, use of generic drugs results in a big saving for a consumer or hospital as they are substantially cheaper than the branded drugs. Even as generics approved by FDA match brands in terms of efficacy and other characteristics, they cost on an average 70% lower. By an estimate of the Congressional Budget Office, annual saving at retail pharmacies on account of the use of generic drugs ranges from $8 to $10.

Brand names enjoy the protection of patent to recognize the innovator which has developed the formulation. Patents serve to allow the innovating manufacturer or company to earn back its expenditure on research and development and promotions by giving it exclusive privilege to sell the drug. Brands have limited currency as patent protection generally apply for a period of about 20 years. Effectively, protection period is much less as patents are generally applied for even as the drug is in its developmental stage. After the expiry of the period of patent protection, other manufacturers are free to introduce the generic versions of the drug. Generic drugs are cheaper primarily for two reasons. Firstly, generic manufacturers do not have to incur investment on research to develop the drugs. Secondly, many companies in the industry manufacturing the same generic drug results in greater competition; thus, keeping the price down.

Are generic drugs safe?

One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about generic drugs is that it is less safe than brand names. The fact is that the FDA approved generic drugs meet the same rigid benchmarks as the brands. The FDA approval is granted only after taking into account its ingredients, bio equivalence, use indications, dosage and quality, among several other factors. Moreover, they have to adhere to stringent good manufacturing practice regulations of FDA. They may look different or have different inactive ingredients, which do not have any therapeutic value.

However, this misconception is now fast changing. In United States about half of all prescriptions are for generic drugs. An increasing number of patients are inquiring their doctors whether generic equivalent of the prescribed brand-name drug is available. The global sales of generic drugs in 2008 was $78 , up 170% from the 2003 figure. The US accounted for 42% of this sales. Lower cost of these drugs has much to do with their increasing popularity.

Generic drugs – Cost effective

The cost benefit of generic drugs is even more enhanced if they are ordered from online pharmacies. Buying from online pharmacies selling cheap generic drugs from pharmaceutical companies of countries like India is a great way to save. However, like in any online shopping transaction, standard care needs to be exercised in order to avoid being scammed. As a thumb rule, such orders should be placed with familiar online pharmacies only.