Have you ever hesitated when your pharmacist offered you the
option of generic substitution? Generic medicines have been around for many
years, and yet there still seems to be a general lack of understanding of, or
confidence placed in generics.
In the minds of the lay public, a generic medicine or
'imitator' product is often deemed to be inferior because it is cheaper than
the branded or 'innovator' product. There may even be concerns in terms of its
effectiveness - is it as safe or as strong as the originator ('innovator')
Affordable option for
This needn't be the case, however, believes Peter Jordan,
Principal Officer of Fedhealth. "Nowadays generics are bioequivalent to
the original branded products and are a far more affordable medicinal option
for many South Africans. They should be considered and recommended, where
appropriate," he says.
Generic drugs may be up to 30% (and often more)
cost-effective than the brand-name. "It is reassuring to know that, for
the great majority of medicines, generic drugs offer the same safety and
efficacy as their more expensive equivalents.
The Medicines Control Council (MCC) requires that a generic
drug deliver the same amount of the same active ingredient into the bloodstream
at the same rate - and they're very strict about this requirement."
Generic drug less
Generic drugs are less expensive because they don't require
the same investment cost required for the research and development of a new
drug - which may total billions. New drugs are developed under patent
The patent protects the investment - including research,
development, marketing and promotion - by giving the company the sole right to
sell the drug while the patent is in effect in order to recoup the money they've
After 15 years, the patent expires and any generic
manufacturer can produce a generic equivalent product thereafter and sell it at
a lower cost and under a different trade name. Once generic drugs are approved,
competition keeps the price down.
Jordan points out that both the branded and generic drug
must meet the same standards of good manufacturing practice (GMP). The MCC
strictly prohibits manufacturing of drugs in sub-standard facilities and
biannual MCC inspections are conducted to ensure GMP standard.
used for meds
have facilities comparable to those of brand-name firms. Another important
point to consider is that your generic drugs could be made by the same company
making the brand-name drug because brand-name firms are responsible for manufacturing
a high percentage of generic drugs," he adds.
There is fierce competition in the generics market which is
advantageous for South Africans, particularly in tough economic times. The
stronger the competition, the more competitive prices become. Yet, South Africa
is still ranked low in terms of generic usage when compared to Western
Moving forward, and in an effort to provide affordable
healthcare for all South Africans, Jordan believes that generics will start to
be recognised as sound alternatives to innovator products and medical
professionals will prescribe them with more confidence.
"The Medicines and Related Substances Act 1965, allows
pharmacists to inform the public of the benefits of generics. Doctors too will
start prescribing generics more readily in the future. Where there are requests
from patients for cheaper generic alternatives, medical professionals will have
to accede to such requests."
In terms of medical schemes, generics mean members get far
more mileage out of their day-to-day benefits, especially those on chronic
"While there may not be generics available for all
medications prescribed, there are many on the market. Members should consider
generics, as these will assist in stretching their benefits, rather than them
running out of benefits early in the year," says Jordan.
(Press release, Fedhealth)
(Picture: pack of pills from Shutterstock)