Meds and you

Updated 24 March 2016

Generics vs. original meds

Do you worry that generic meds aren't as good as the brand-name versions? It's a common misconception that could be costing you money.


We all know generic medicines are cheaper than the originals, but do you still opt for the original when the pharmacist offers you the generic version?

Perhaps you do it because you're worried that the generic might not be manufactured to the same standards as the original.

You are not alone – the fact that generic drugs are up to 80% cheaper than brand-name versions of medications can sometimes make consumers wonder whether they are buying an inferior or less effective product.

The facts about generics vs. the original

The World Health Organisation (WHO) assures us that generics, while they are copies of the original, are 100% interchangeable with the original, aka the ‘innovator’ medicine1.

More simply put, they contain the exact same ingredients, making them what is called ‘bio-equivalents’.

In South Africa, The Medicines Control Council (MCC) employs a team of doctors, scientists and pharmacists who check generics to ensure their safety, quality and efficacy.

The beauty of generics is that they are so much more affordable, putting them within reach of poorer people who would not normally be able to buy the original medicine.

The downside? Unfortunately there aren’t generics for all medicines on the market.

See: The differences between generics and original meds 

What Health24 FB users say: A quick snapshot on our Facebook page and the confusion is evident:

generic brand name drugs medicine south africa bes

Four terms you need to know regarding generic vs. original medicines:

Patented medicines: This is the original pharmaceutical product, aka the innovator product. It’s made and sold by the company that developed it, and that company has the patent rights to the medicine.

Because it takes years and huge investment to create a medicine from scratch, the original pharmaceutical manufacturers are ensured of a return on their  investment through patent rights on the product.

Patents protect drugs from copycat versions for up to 20 years after the drug is conceptualised (that is, it’s not taken to market as this can take up to eight years), meaning the company has the sole right to make and sell that product while the patent is in place.

Generic medicines: These medicines are biologically exactly the same as the original, innovator product. They have the same active ingredient, are the same strength, are used the same way, have the same effect on the patient and the dose is also exactly the same. The only difference is in their shape, packaging, colour and some inactive ingredients, such as preservatives or flavourants.

Brand name medicines: These are the actual names under which a particular drug is sold, such as AlkaFizz.

Non-proprietary generic name drugs: This is the name for the active ingredient in the medicine (such as antihistamine) that is biologically active and that has a particular effect on the on the structure or function of the body. Antihistamine is used in the treatment of allergies.

So now you know. Put simply, generics not only save millions of lives, they save you money, too.

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This article was brought to you by Cipla Medpro South Africa (Pty) Limited and its affiliates.
Find out how Cipla is advancing healthcare for all in South Africa.