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March 19

Branded Vs Generic Drugs

I’m very sure you are very familiar with this scenario: you walk into a pharmacy, you ask for drug XYZ, the pharmacist says, we don’t have this particular brand, but we have others that contains the same thing.

In this article I hope to help you understand the differences between branded and generic medications, to help guide your choices better when you go to fill your prescriptions.

So what do we mean by branded medications? 

Certain companies take up the overwhelming task of discovering medicines (innovator companies) and taking them through numerous trials to ensure they are effective and safe. This process takes between 10-15 years on an average and costs hundreds of millions of dollars. To help recoup their time and money invested, the government gives them a patent, allowing them to exclusively sell that drug for a specified number of years, about 20 years. Examples of such companies include, Pfizer, Sanofi, GSK, Astrazeneca, Roche, Merck, Novartis and many more.

But then, those patents finally expire, and other companies are allowed to produce this same medications. These are the generic brands. It costs these companies much less to produce these medications, plus they do not incur the costs of trials, allowing them to sell at a significantly lower price than the innovator companies. Examples of generic producing companies include, Emzor, Rambaxy, Juhel, Teva, Dr. Reddy’s, Almos, Mega, May and Baker, MicroLab and many more.

These generic brands either call their drugs by the name of the drug it contains or they may give it a brand name as well. Let me give an example, the drug Amlodipine (for high blood pressure):

The innovator brand is Norvasc® by Pfizer 
The generic brand by TEVA UK, has the name Amlodipine on it, while another
Generic brand by MicroLabs, is called Amlong

The Amlong brand is still generic even though it was given a brand name, simply because MicroLabs isn’t the company that discovered and developed Amlodipine, Pfizer did.

So far, I have explained why the differences in price exist. Now let’s go through the other differences.

When a company decides to produce a generic brand of a drug, they have to ensure that it contains the same active ingredient(s) as the branded product, in the same dosage form and at the same dose or concentration.  However, the drug may differ in colour, shape, taste, inactive ingredients (other ingredients used to make the tablets, besides the active one), preservatives and packaging.

They also have to ensure that the generic drug dissolves at the same rate and to the same extent as the branded drug. These tests to ensure they are equivalent are done in a lab, not in actual humans.

Therefore, a generic drug that has passed these tests, can be substituted for the branded versions. It is the job of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to carry out these tests, and release those that pass into the Nigerian market. Those that don’t are rejected.

Using a branded drug or the generic , should give the same effects, as long as the generic passes all the necessary tests. However, as humans, we are different. Some individuals seem to get better response with certain brands than others, partly due to differences in the inactive ingredients and preparation techniques. So you can see someone do very well on brand A and then someone else not so well on the same drug.

So in conclusion, when you are offered a different brand of a medication, it is fine to substitute. However, if you are sure you can get the same brand, which has been doing quite well for you elsewhere, you can decide to stick with it. If getting that same brand would be a headache, substituting is fine. 

Also, if the cost of your current branded medication is becoming a burden, speak to your pharmacist to find a suitable generic substitute for you. If the first one you try, doesn’t give you comparable results, don’t give up just yet, try another, because as I stated earlier, there are individual variations.

If you have any thoughts or questions on this, drop a comment below.

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  1. Great.. Nice article… Substitution is fine but only if our regulatory agencies av the will to maintain the standard of practice.

    Then the?? Is, are dey really the same with the type of generics will have in the country… 

    Just my opinion… 

    Nice article ????

    1. Thank you very mcuh Ade Love,

      I definitely agree with your concerns, some products really shouldn’t be pharmacies for sale. It’s our unfortunate reality. However, I do believe generics can be substituted, the difference in cost worth the try in most cases. I also think people need to trust some of our Nigerian brands more, brands like Swipha, Evans, Emzor, May and Baker and some others, are producing effective products.


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