By now everyone is feeling the pinch of the financial crunch, and most of us are looking for ways to make our paycheques go further. But neglecting your health in order to save money will cost you further down the line, both physically and financially.
Fortunately, there is a way in which to cut down on medical costs and still get the medicines you need.
With so many fake and adulterated products doing the rounds, it's natural to be sceptical about a product that goes for a fraction of the price of the original. But generic medicines are not fake medicines. Strict regulations ensure that they're made according to the same "recipe" as the original, and they're generally sold for significantly less than the brand-name products.
We've done the footwork for you and have collected the prices and generic alternatives to some of the top-selling prescription and over-the-counter medicines in South Africa. Health 24's Generic medicine tool shows the single exit price of a medicine in August 2009 – note that prices may differ depending on where you buy.
Here's some more information on generic medication, in case you're still wondering whether it's the way to go:
Why are generic medicines cheaper?
Generics become possible when patents expire. The research and development of a new drug may total billions, and they're patented to give their developing company a period of exclusivity in which to recoup some of those costs.
Brand-name drugs are generally given patent protection for as long as 20 years from the date of submission of the patent. When that protection expires, other drug companies can introduce competitive generic versions, but only after they have been thoroughly tested by the manufacturer and approved by the Medicines Control Council (MCC).
As soon as generics are introduced, the brand-name drug loses its monopoly and normal market forces tend to drive down prices significantly.
Why generics are safe
The reality is that generic medicines are by law subject to the same strict regulations and approval processes as brand-name drugs, and must meet the same standards of good manufacturing practice (GMP).
The mere fact that the MCC has allowed the generic medication onto the market should offer you all the reassurance you need to know that you're not getting an inferior product.
It is, for example, worth pointing out that Aspen Pharmacare (South Africa's biggest producer of generic drugs) has manufacturing facilities accredited by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Not too good to be true