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Difference Between Brand Names and Generic Names of Drugs

When a new drug is discovered, the company that discovered it would apply for patency to prevent other companies from producing and selling the drug. This patency may take up to 20 years and during this period, the company will produce and sell the drug under a brand name to recover its investment and make a profit. With time, this name becomes synonymous with the drug. But after the patency expires, other companies are allowed to produce a similar drug. It is what gave rise to brand and generic name in drugs.

Examples of brand name and generic drugs can be cited with following diabetes and hypertension drugs. Metformin is a generic drug for diabetes, but its brand name is Glucophage. Similarly, Metoprolol is a generic drug for hypertension but its brand name is Lopressor. These drugs will be known by different names in different countries, but the generic name remain constant.

What is the difference between brand name and generic drugs?

The difference between brand name and generic drugs is in the circumstances of producing the drugs. While brand name drug refers to the name giving by the producing company, generic drug refers to a drug produced after the active ingredient of the brand name drug. Generic drugs will, however, be sold under different brand names, but will contain the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug. But with regards to the effectiveness of the drugs, generic drugs have the same quality active ingredient as brand name drugs. All drugs must comply with strict directive and supervision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and equivalent institutions in other countries.

For branding purposes, generic drugs are not exactly the same in look, color, tastes and shape as the brand name drugs and must have its unique brand name.

These areas of differences are noticeable between brand name and generic drugs and among generic drugs as well. It means you will get different drugs names with the same active ingredients, and this active ingredient is what refers to the generic drug.

How brand name and generics drugs differ?

  • Different inactive ingredients: In a brand name and generic drugs relationship, the difference is the inactive ingredient contained in the drugs. Since what the FDA is particular about is the active ingredients, generic and brand name drugs’ inactive ingredients are different. It is why it is important to look through the ingredient list on the drug label to see if there is any ingredient not good for you.
  • Cheaper than the brand name drugs: the cash price and insurance co-pay is typically lower. The cost can be lesser between 20 and 80 percent. It is meant to be because generic drugs companies do not bear the same investment costs as the brand name company.
  • Different manufacturers: Different manufacturers produce generic drugs, and you will receive your type of drug depending on which manufacturer your drug store uses.

Why do generic drugs are different in colors and flavors?

Trade laws forbid generic drugs to look exactly like the brand-name drugs but must all have the same active ingredients for the same medicinal effects. These differences often come from non-active ingredients used such as the dyes, fillers, and preservatives, which help to determine the size, shape and color.

This is the reason why patients are advised to follow doctor’s prescription because your doctor is able to match your history and some inactive ingredients in a particular generic drug that may cause adverse reaction in your body, whereas the branded or some other generic version of the same drug might not.

How to know you are getting the right drug at the pharmacy?

If your prescription is for a brand name, but your doctor permits generic substitution, the drug label will indicate the active ingredient. So despite differences between brand name and generic drugs, active ingredients are the same, effectively. However, talking to your doctor before filling your drug list will guarantee you are getting the right drug. You are not to assume a drug is the same just by looking; it takes an understanding of active ingredient composition to decide.

Generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs; will this not affect the quality of the drugs?

If you are concerned that generic drugs are cheaper and may affect the quality, you are not alone. But it won’t, that is the truth! The food and drug administration (FDA) works to make generic drugs as safe and effective as brand name drugs. Imagine the world without enough and affordable essential drugs. It is why generic drugs are allowed to make more drugs available and affordable to people who need them.

Generic drugs are cheaper since the costs of production do not include the cost of development and marketing for the brand name drugs. Usually, new drugs expenses will include the cost of research, patency, development, marketing, and promotion. But none of these costs are involved in generic drugs. It is why the law allows the brand name company to recoup its investment before allowing generic drug manufacturers to produce and sell the same drug.

In a way, the reason generic drugs are allowed is to bring down cost and make drugs available to more people at affordable prices.

How do I know it’s the same drug?

The law requires drug manufacturers to list active and inactive ingredients of a drug on its label. While drugs may have different brand names, the generic name describes the active ingredient of the drug and this is a way to identify the type of drug. The same active ingredient will have different brand names in different countries. The law also demands that all active drugs must have the same active content and quality. However, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacists if in doubt.


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