What should you do if your pharmacist offers you a generic medicine instead of your usual brand?
What are generic medicines?
New drugs are protected by a 20-year patent which gives the manufacturer the sole right to sell it. When the patent expires, other companies can copy and market the drug under a different brand name. These copies are called generic medicines. Generics contain the same amount of active ingredient and are as effective and safe.
Why use generic medicines?
To save money. Manufacturers of generics simply copy an existing drug and do not spend money on research and development. Some of these savings are passed on to consumers - an average of $2.94 per script.
Are there any risks with generics?
Changing brands repeatedly can lead to confusion and medication errors. The generic brands may have a different colour, size, shape or packaging. There is a risk of accidentally taking both the new and old brands.
Furthermore, with a small number of drugs, slight differences between brands can cause side-effects and a critical reduction in effectiveness. These include warfarin, digoxin and certain anti-epileptic drugs.
Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before changing brands and stay with the same generic once familiar with it.
To find out if there are generic alternatives to your medicines, go to http://www.pbs.gov.au/html/home.
For more info, ring the Medicines Line, 1300 888 763.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.