Put simply, a generic medicine is medicine. It is exactly the same as the original name-brand medicine; it performs the same function, yields the same results, and can often cost you far less.
They may have difference in shape, taste, or colour, but a generic medicine is a bioequivalent of its name-brand cousin. This means that it contains the same active ingredient (the one that makes you better) and works in the same way as the original.
Bioequivalence is determined by testing the medicine on volunteer subjects, and running tests on them to determine how well the active ingredient is absorbed.
No, this does not mean that one medicine will be better than another. In order to be fit for sale, the generics have to work in exactly the same way as the original does.
In the same way that the generic brand must have the same intended effect as the original medicine, it will also have the same side effects, so there are no nasty surprises that come from using generic medicines.
They are just as safe, and are held to the same safety standards as any branded medicine. Any medicine must be approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). As well as lab testing, the TGA continues in monitoring safety of all medicines (not just generics) while they are on the market.
While the TGA monitors the safety and ingredients of medicines, and decides if they are permitted for sale, they do not set prices.
However, generic medicines tend to be cheaper, due to the fact that different inactive ingredients (the ones that don’t do anything) are used in the manufacturing process. Also, the companies producing the generic medicines have not had the significant expense of developing and proving a new drug.
Important points to remember about Generic Medicine
It contains the same active ingredients as the name brand medicine, so it does exactly the same thing.
The different shape/taste/colour is due to the inactive ingredients and manufacturing process.
The shape or colour is what differentiates the medicine from the original brand, and has no effect on the outcome of the product.
Generic brands have no adverse side effects (unless that side effect is also present in the branded medicine).
Generic medicines are safe and TGA approved.
Generic medicines can be better value for money.
If you want generic medication, ask your pharmacist if they have any, as newer medication may not yet have a generic version.
You do not have to use generic medicines if your pharmacist offers them; it is entirely up to you.
What is a biosimilar product?
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) ecently made a recommendation to allow biologics to be substituted with biosimilar drugs by clinicians and pharmacists if the biosimilar is found to be a safe and effective equivalent treatment.
The difference between biosimilar drugs and generic drugs is that generic drugs are usually exactly the same as the original patented medicine. Because of both the complex nature of biologics and the way they are made, even though biosimilar drugs act in the same way as the original patented biologic, they may not be exactly the same.