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Prescription Drugs – The Difference Between Generic and Brand Names

Updated on June 19, 2013

Thursday mornings are the days all my girlfriends meet up for a coffee and a natter, and today we were talking about the medicine prescriptions handed out by the local doctor.

She has been in the habit of handing out brand name drugs as opposed to generic, and some of the girls didn’t know the difference.

If you don’t know the difference between generic and brand name prescription drugs, then read on.

Brand Name Prescription Drugs

Brand name medications are drugs that the big pharmaceutical companies have developed.

It is a very expensive process to produce a new drug. It not only involves hours and hours of research by highly qualified and therefore highly-paid scientists.

Once they have worked out all the chemical formulas, they have to test their new product, firstly on animals in laboratories, and if all goes well, it then goes out toclinical trial in the community among volunteers, who may or may not receive remuneration for their troubles (risks).

Prescription drugs
Prescription drugs | Source

Getting a Brand Name Drug on the Market

Usually in a drugs trial, 50% of the recipients will actually receive the new drug, and the other 50% will receive a placebo, a non-drug, a harmless powder dressed up to look like the real drug.

Both groups will be closely monitored the whole time they are on the trial, and the results carefully analyzed both during and afterwards.

If the drug does what it is suppose to do, it then it goes in front of a medicine committee in its country of original firstly, and they usually want to repeat the trials to see if their results are the same before they will consider licensing a drug.

These tests will be repeated in each country throughout the world, and the pharmaceutical company picks up the tab for the lot.

It can take up to 10 years to get a new drug licensed and on the market, because even once it has passed all the tests, the results have be analysed again and again until the Drugs Safety Committees are satisfied that the new drug is not going to kill more people than it cures.

This all costs millions of dollars, and has to be paid for somehow.

It is passed on to the customer when the new drug finally goes on the market.

And so you will find yourself paying a large amount of money for something which actually only costs a few cents for the ingredients.

Pharmaceutical companies apply for a patent for each new drug they produce, which in the US lasts for 20 years. However, they normally apply for this patent before clinical trials begin and so the patent may only have 8 – 10 years left to run after the drug is licensed and for sale.

Generic Drugs

Generic drugs are copies of the brand name medication. They must contain the exact same chemicals in the same formulation, and generic drugs can only legally be produced when the brand name patent expires.

They cost a fraction to produce and so sell for just a fraction of the price of the brand name.

Many, many medications on the market today can be found in generic form, andwork just as well as newer formulations.

This is important to know, because when you are ill and having to pay for prescription drugs, the last thing you actually need or want is to pay for a new brand name drug, when an older, generic one will do the same job cheaper.

Many drug company representatives encourage doctors to prescribe new drugs with the promise of reward – whether that be a new electric toaster, or office furniture, or even vacations abroad.

And so there is a financial incentive for the doctor to prescribe for you a new brand name drug when an older cheaper one would do the job as well if not better.

For this reason, you should make a point of asking your doctor for the generic equivalent of whatever drug he or she is prescribing for your medical condition.

Really, the only exceptions should be for when people cannot find relief from their medical condition with an existing drug, in which case there may well be a newer medication that is still under patent that may suit better.


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