Generic vs. Brand-Name Prescription Medications – What’s the Difference?

Pharmacist getting medication off the shelf

The cost of prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can be expensive. Depending on the type, costs could have a wide range. A simple walk down the pharmacy aisle and you’ll see dozens of options to choose from. You’ll see the brand names you recognized and regularly see advertised. 

But you’ll also see many generic brand medications. For some reason, there is a belief that generic brands are inferior and not as good as the better-known brand name. We get a lot of questions about this at our pharmacy from our patrons about this on daily basis. 

To ensure there is no confusion and you understand the difference between generic and brand-name prescription medications, we put the following comparison together for you.

What are brand name drugs? What are generic drugs?

Brand name drugs are the first of their kind. They are marketed as new entities in the marketplace. So, they are the first version that is available to the public. Generic drugs are copies of brand name drugs. They are produced after the original patent expires. Therefore, they share a lot of similarities and some differences.

How are brand name and generic drugs the same?

Brand name and generic drugs are more similar than they are different. Here are some of the things that make them the same:

  • They have the same ingredients
  • They have the same bioavailable – they have the same extent and rate of absorption
  • They meet the same Health Canada standards

“There is a common misperception that generic drug concentrations can be 80% to 125% of the brand name formulation; in other words, the variance may be up to 45%. This is not true,” says Canada’s Drug and Health Technology Agency.

How are brand name and generic drugs different?

Even though the ingredients between the two are the same, there are some ways brand name and generic drugs can differ. They include the following:

  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Markings

These elements could be an important consideration if someone has a reaction or allergies to one of the excipients.

Why is there such a big price difference between brand name and generic drugs?

Cost is perhaps the biggest focus for people when comparing the brand name and generic drugs. And there can certainly be a significant difference. But why are generic drugs so much cheaper? 

It typically has to do with the fact that generic drug producers do not have to invest in upfront costs for researching and developing the drug. Brand name companies invest in lab time, clinical trials and ensuring the drugs get approval from Health Canada. Generic drug producers also do not invest as heavily in marketing and advertising. 

Not sure which prescription medication to choose? Appleby pharmacists are always here to answer any questions about your medication. If you have any questions about our pharmacy services, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to helping you with all your medication and prescription needs.

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