We are all familiar with major brands, after all a lot of time and money is invested in their success. Some of the major branded products we sell at TravelPharm include Malarone (anti-malarial), Viagra (erectile dysfunction), Cialis (erectile dysfunction) and Nurofen (pain relief). All of these to some extent are household names.
Did you know that these branded products are often available cheaper unbranded? We call these drugs “generic” medicines.
Once a manufacturer patents a medicine they usually have 20 years of exclusivity to make and sell the drug under their brand. Patents are the process of securing the rights to produce a medicine without fear of competition, but once the patent expires other companies are able to manufacture and sell the medicine legally.
Once the patent expires they cannot use the brand name as that will be trademarked by the original owner eg Viagra is owned by the drug company Pfizer and Malarone by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Most generics manufacturers choose to use the drug name, eg Sildenafil, Tadalafil, Atovaquone/Proguanil, Ibuprofen etc. Occasionally the generics company might start their own brand, eg Maloff Protect which is their brand of Atovaquone/Proguanil (anti-malarial).
Generic medicines and brands are made in factories worldwide either owned by the drug companies or commissioned to manufacture a particular drug for their client. Importantly medicines imported into Europe, (which coincidentally has some of the strictest requirements in the world) must conform to our manufacturing standards. Which means whether you buy branded or generic you will get a good quality product. Checks on these products are carried out by the European medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA)
In most respects generics and brands are identical. They will be made to similar if not the same quality control standards and will have exactly the same active ingredient. Active ingredients are the ones that actually do the job.
If a medicine is to be made into tablets then it also needs to be combined with inactive ingredients. These inactive ingredients don't do anything other than bulk up the medicine. This means they will have no bearing on the effectiveness of the medicine. Common bulking agents include lactose and microcrystalline cellulose.
No. Generic medicines are generally cheaper and in the case of Viagra, Sildenafil (generic Viagra) the price has dropped significantly. other notable products that have had generic version manufactured include Cialis (tadalafil) and Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil, or Generic Malarone as we call it).
Which one to choose?
The choice is yours. When the patient is paying the full cost of the medicine, price tends to be a major factor in deciding whether to use branded or unbranded products. In this situation, most patients opt for unbranded products.
So why do some people still buy brands? In most scenarios it is familiarity. We are all familiar with brands and the images these brands portray actively persuade us that their product is premium and better than their competitors.
Clinical effectiveness should be no different between branded and generic medicines and usually upon trying generic medicines patients are happy with their treatment. People feel reassured by brands and often require reassurance that the cheaper product is in fact as good and manufactured to the same high standards.