We commonly see many different brands for the same medication in the market. Some are more economically priced than others. Often we are informed that the cheaper options are generic medications. People often have queries about whether these more affordable medications are good enough and whether they should buy them.
So what are these generic medications?
To understand this, one needs to have some idea of the process of drug development. When a pharmaceutical company develops a new drug, a lot of research and money is invested in determining if the drug will be effective and safe to use. New drugs are put under patent protection during development, which gives the pharmaceutical company developing the drug the sole right to sell the drug while the patent is in effect and thereby protecting its interests. This new drug is known by a name that is the Brand name.
A patent may last for varying periods. Once a drug comes off patent, other pharmaceutical companies have the right to make the same drug. The drugs produced now are called Generics. The pharmaceutical companies can apply to regulators for the license to produce the drug. However, before they do this, they have to prove that the drug that they will produce will have the same quality, effectiveness and safety criteria as the Brand name drug. The generic drug must demonstrate something called bio-equivalence, which means that the generic medicine works in the same way and produces the same clinical effect as the brand name medicine.
Usually, the brand name refers to the name given by the producing company, and the generic name refers to the active ingredient. For example, paracetamol is the active ingredient or the generic name, while Crocin is the brand name.
Now going back to our original question- why are generic drugs less expensive? Like we just found out, the company sets the drug price during the patent period, and hence the branded drug is more costly. As the company producing the generic medication does not have to invest in undertaking the initial research into developing the drug, it can afford to lower the price. Hence, generic medicines are considerably cheaper than branded medications.
But are generic medications less effective? No. As we found earlier, generic medicines have to demonstrate that they are equally safe and effective as branded drugs before they are given a license for mass production. We may find some minor differences sometimes between branded and generic medications, only in relation to inactive ingredients (affecting colour and flavouring).
Being considerably cheaper and equally effective, generic medications are beneficial, particularly in a developing country like India. So please do not hesitate to use generic medicines.
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