Generic drugs have gotten a bad reputation in the Caribbean, perhaps because some generics come from India and a lot of people are not convinced that the quality of these drugs is good. Let’s explore the reasons why...
First of all, what is a generic?
So this is what happens: A drug company, a multi-billion dollar organisation, conducts years of clinical trials before a medication receives approval for use by the general public. Because of the huge amount of money they invest, they are granted a patent (a license to produce the drug) which lasts for many years. This means that only that company has the right to make the drug during that time so they can make back their money.
After the patent expires, other drug companies are legally allowed to produce generics, or copies of the drug. This is good news for people who cannot afford expensive drugs and also for countries like the UK which provides free medication for all its citizens. These countries understand that budgeting is key to providing an excellent standard of healthcare.
So for example, Aricept is produced by a company called Pfizer and was the first medication approved to treat Alzheimer’s Dementia. The active ingredient in Aricept is Donepezil Hydrochloride. The patent that Pfizer had for Aricept is now expired, which is good news because now many companies around the world are producing generics such as Palixid (produced in Hungary) and Apo-Donepezil (produced in Canada) at a much cheaper price.
So are the generics just as good as the branded drugs?
In my opinion, yes. But I would definitely choose generics from the US, Canada, the European Union or Australia/New Zealand because their quality standards are rigorous. There are many reports of medications produced in small, unsanitary factories in other countries around the world and even reports of fake medications packaged in fake boxes! So be careful of where the generic is produced.
Why do all medications have two names?
One is the brand name that is used for marketing and the smaller name below is the active ingredient which is the important thing. So always check the small writing below the brand name. For example it will look like this:
ARICEPT or PALIXID
Donepezil Hydrochloride Donepezil Hydrochloride
Another example is:
PANADOL or TYLENOL
They are the same thing, just different brands! (NB: Paracetamol is called Acetaminophen in the US).
As you can see, the active ingredient, in both cases, is exactly the same. If I were you, I would go for the cheaper option, because in the long run you will save yourself a lot of money!
Dr James Bratt, Lead Consultant at Age Caribbean and Geriatric Psychicatrist.