Are Generic Drugs Safe?

Are Generic Drugs Safe

When we say generic, people often associate it with something of low quality like a generic wrap or a generic food. What people don’t understand is the fact that generic drugs are as powerful its branded counterparts.

A generic medicine means a drug that copied a branded medicines active ingredient. It is an extension of the branded one. Generic medicines are also tested by the Food and Drug Administration and other health regulations to ensure that it works likes its branded equivalent. In short, a generic medicine mirrors its branded equivalent in terms of strength, dose, formulation, and side effects. The only difference between a generic and a branded medicine is their price. According to studies, a generic medicine costs less than 95% of a branded drug. At the end of the day, whether you are taking a generic or a branded version of your medicines, you can be assured of one thing, it works the same.

The Difference Between Generic and Branded

Although the Food and Drug Administration is strict in ensuring that the generic medicines produced by pharmaceutical companies should mirror the exact likeness of the branded medicine they are reproducing, there are certain deviations allowed. Sometimes, the brand’s manufacturer makes this request.

For example, the patent of Pfizers Viagra didnt end with the formulation of the drug, they also applied for a patent for the drugs diamond shape

For example, the patent of Pfizer’s Viagra didn’t end with the formulation of the drug, they also applied for a patent for the drug’s diamond shape. It means that although drug companies can reproduce sildenafil citrate as an erectile dysfunction medicine, they cannot make their pills in a diamond shape like Viagra. Today, generic drugs can be different from its branded counterpart in these aspects:

  • Generic medicines can be reproduced in different shape other than the branded one
  • Generic medicines can be reproduced in different color other than the branded one
  • Generic medicines can be reproduced in different packaging other than the branded one
  • Generic medicines can be reproduced in different labelling other than the branded one
  • Generic medicines can be reproduced and sold in different price other than the branded one
  • Generic medicines can be reproduced with flavors and preservatives as long as the other important components like active ingredients are kept

As mentioned above, these are the only differences allowed between a generic medicine and its branded equivalent. Any other deviation are not allowed as it can affect the efficacy and safety of the drug such as dosage strength and the active ingredient used. When it comes to the expiration date, generic drugs might have shorter expiry date too but just like its branded counterpart, it is effective until it expires.

The Cost of Generic Drugs, Why it is Cheaper

Although generic medicines are sold cheaper, it is the similar to its branded counterpart in so many important ways such as the following:

  • Generic medicines undergo the same FDA testing that its branded equivalent had
  • Generic medicines have the same use and effect like its branded equivalent
  • Generic medicines should act as fast as its branded equivalent like it should work after 30 minutes of taking it

If generic medicines were made just like its branded equivalent, why it is cheaper then? According to drug makers, the difference in price between generic and branded medicines has something to do with three things – the amount spent on research, the amount spent on a large-scale drug testing, and the amount spent on advertising, marketing and promoting the new drug. These things have been done by the original manufacturer. In the case of Viagra, Pfizer had spent millions of dollars in these steps before the FDA approved Viagra as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. When the patent of Viagra expired, this information became public and other pharmaceutical companies became free to copy them hence reducing the cost of producing their generic Viagra medicine. The patent is a way for pharmaceutical companies to protect their investment with their newly researched medicines hence medicine patents expire after 12 years.

As for Viagra, when its patent expired in different countries, local pharmaceutical companies have started manufacturing their own version of Viagra, making it one of the most reproduced drug in the market.

Aside from spending nothing on reproducing generic medicines, pharmaceutical companies are also competing with each other. In the case of Viagra, at least 20 or 30 generic brands are out in the market today and they are all competing in making a name in the market. Large pharmaceutical companies like Sun Pharmaceutical, Ajanta Pharma, Teva, and Sandoz have produced their own version of generic Viagra and are selling it for as low as $1 per tablet. Pfizer’s Viagra is still on sale for $6 to $12 per tablet.


The industry of generic medicine continues to grow according to market studies. To date, at least 9% of prescribed medicines are generic. Doctors are encouraging the use of generic brands because it is cheaper yet it works in the same manner as the branded one. Most governments are also mandating their hospitals and doctors to use generic medicines to make medical treatment more affordable to the general public. It only means that generic medicines are now being trusted for its safety and efficacy.

If you want to have continuous medication without causing a hole in your wallet, it is high time to ask your doctor about generic medicine. Most branded medicines now come with a generic counterpart. For now, some medicines like NTI or drugs with narrow therapeutic index are the only drugs with no generic equivalent. These drugs are considered dangerous because of the small margin between its safe and effective dosage towards its toxic dosage. Before taking a generic medicine, it is always best to ask your doctor if you can switch to it.

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