Generic vs branded drugs: is there a difference?

cma investigate drug company pricing

Generic drugs and branded drugs – are the generic versions just as good as the branded ones?

Bloomberg recently reported that consumers are apparently unaware of the dangers of generic drugs that can actually cause harm to you. Generic drugs were introduced in the market as copies of brand-name drugs. They’re supposed to have the exact same dosage, intended use, effects, side-effects, method of use, risks, safety and strength as the branded drug; i.e. the same intended pharmacological effects as branded drugs.

But experts fear generic drugs are more dangerous than most people think…

U.S. drug regulators have highlighted the importance of having generic drugs that “allow greater access to health care for all”. The go on to say:

“…healthcare professionals and consumers can be assured that FDA approved generic drug products have met the same rigid standards as the innovator [branded] drug. All generic drugs approved by FDA have the same high quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs.”

They reiterate that the processes of manufacturing, packaging and testing must pass the same rigorous protocols and standards.

If that’s the case, why have there been recent reports of generic drugs having a different effect?

In one case example:

Peter was a user of Cymbalta, manufactured by Eli Lilly & Co, who used the drug to keep his anxiety under control for 9-years. He switched to a generic form of the vital medication when he heard it was available on the market to save on the costs of purchasing the drug.

However, he reported that the generic drug didn’t work for him and the old symptoms of anxiety resurfaced. He also experienced other symptoms such as “irritability”, he goes on to say that “it kind of felt like a blanket over your brain the whole time.”

Peter returned back to Cymbalta and felt a noticeable difference after just three days.

Price hike?

This could be disastrous for patients who rely on drugs… If they switched from a branded drug to a generic drug due to the price difference, but then started noticing changes due to the generic drug, this could impact their medical condition significantly.

The decrease in the standards and quality of the generic drugs could be explained as a result of the hike in drug prices.

Pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. have recently come under fire for price gouging – a term where a manufacturer hikes the prices of goods to a level considered unreasonable. Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical, was criticised for raising an old paracetamol drug from $13 to $750 (£9.80 to £566). In 2016, Heather Bresch, CEO for Mylan Pharmaceutical, was also grilled by Congress for raising the price of an Epipen by two-thirds i.e. from $104 to $276 (£79 to £209).

Europe vs U.S.

In Europe, governments often negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to allow them to limit the price citizens pay. Conversely, in the U.S., drug manufacturers are able to set prices up to whatever the market can bear. As the U.S. healthcare system is predominantly private and self-funded, many patients may opt for generic drugs because they’re cheaper.

Though it may be the cheaper option, it may not necessarily be the best option for their healthcare/condition in the long run as the generic drugs may not work and may result in further side-effects. It’s down to healthcare and drug regulators to reassess rules surrounding drug pricing, as it’s arguably those who cannot afford such higher prices who end up the worse affected.

Healthcare should be readily available for all.

The content of this post/page was considered accurate at the time of the original posting and/or at the time of any posted revision. The content of this page may, therefore, be out of date. The information contained within this page does not constitute legal advice. Any reliance you place on the information contained within this page is done so at your own risk.

Request a Callback from our team!

Fill out our quick call back form below and we’ll contact you when you’re ready to talk to us.
All fields marked * are required.

Your privacy is extremely important to us. Information on how we handle your data is in our Privacy Policy.
You have the right to object to the processing of your personal data.