Branded medication, also known as innovator drugs, are products that are newly discovered for a specific illness/condition. Once approved, the pharmaceutical manufacturing company behind it receives a “patent market exclusivity right” to prevent other companies from replicating the formula and selling it.
These patents are typically valid up to 20 years or more before they expire, during which time the company is able to produce and sell the drug under the agreed brand name. After the patent expires, it becomes legal for anyone in the pharmaceutical marketplace to mass produce the drug according to the approved formula, which would then be known as a generic medicine.
Generic drugs are not much different from the branded version; they are made of the same active ingredients (the chemical that produces the therapeutic effect), and involve the same strength, dosage form, and route of administration from the branded version.
To be approved, generic drug manufacturers are required to perform rigorous testing on their product to prove and assure the Drug Control Authority (DCA) that their medicines are bioequivalent – that is, works the same way – as the branded version.
The DCA in Malaysia imposes strict evaluation and assessment for all medication before it can be marketed to the public. Thus, a generic medicine that has successfully passed bioequivalent testing should have similar therapeutic effects as its innovator.
Common examples of brand-name and generic drugs can be seen today for conditions such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension. For instance:
- Glucophage (branded), also known as Metformin (generic)
- Diamicron aka Gliclazide
- Lipitor aka Atorvastatin
- Novasc aka Amlodipine
- Concor aka Bisoprolol
- Panadol aka Uphamol
The most notable difference between branded and generic is the price, with generic meds potentially being up to 70% cheaper. While cheaper goods are often associated with poorer quality or weaker efficacy, this isn’t true in this case, thanks to the prior testing by manufacturers and approval required by the DCA.
Generic drugs are essentially cheaper because they do not need to account for high research and development costs involving expensive and time-consuming clinical trials that innovator drug manufacturers are subjected to.
Besides, they are free from the large sum of funds on advertising and marketing, since the branded version would already have existed for over 20 years. Generic manufacturers also create competition in the marketplace as more companies will be interested in producing the drug, further reducing the price.
Generic drugs may differ in terms of shape or colour due to the different pharmaceutical inactive excipients, which refers to dyes, flavouring agents, binders and so on. These are added during the manufacturing process for stability, preservation and consistency purposes. The differences generally do not affect the drug’s therapeutic efficacy.
How do you know it’s the same drug?
All drug manufacturers are legally required to list the active and inactive ingredients on its label. The generic name usually describes the active ingredient of the drug, which is a way of allowing you to identify whether it’s the same as the branded version. For example, both Panadol and Uphamol will list the active ingredient as paracetamol.
When in doubt, it’s best to consult your doctor or pharmacist to avoid any medication error.
This article was written by DOC2US, a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere.