What You Need To Know About Generic Medicines

When you go to the chemist to get your prescription medications, the pharmacist will often ask if you'd like the generic version. When you ask what the difference is, he or she will usually say: "they're exactly the same". So you figure, hey, why the hell not? What you may not realise is that your pharmacist could have a financial motivation in dispensing generic medicines rather than branded medicines. Changes to the system are currently underway, however, and you're set to benefit from them so long as you're aware of your choices and how they affect you.

Photo remixed from original by Mario Villafuerte/Stringer (Getty Images)

While doing our research for this article, it became obvious very quickly that the subject of generic medicines is complex, with many aspects beyond the scope of what we're discussing here. Here we will briefly describe price disclosure — one of many changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) currently underway — and explain the differences between generic and branded medicines. Photo by rutty (Flickr).

The introduction of price disclosure is one important part of broader reforms to the PBS, the program that subsidises prescription medicines in Australia. Price disclosure will require pharmaceutical companies to tell the Government the actual price at which medicines are supplied to pharmacies. So instead of subsidising generic medicines based on the labelled prices, the Government will reimburse pharmacies the discounted wholesale price that pharmacies are actually paying for buying medicines in bulk. The first round of these price reductions will begin on April 1, 2012.

The price disclosure arrangement ensures that the Government reaps the benefits of these discounting arrangements between the pharmacies and its suppliers. Since the Government only subsidises up to the price of the lowest medicine in a group, it's expected that these reforms will save the Government hundreds of millions of dollars over just a few years, which can then be directed elsewhere in the public health system.

For example, if sertraline (an antidepressant) has an approved price of $10, the government is using taxpayer funds to reimburse pharmacists $10 under the PBS, even if the pharmacy is able to purchase the medicine at a $5 discount for buying in bulk. The Medical Journal of Australia provides this example:

For example, the dispensed price of generic simvastatin 20 mg is $34, $22 of which is intended to cover its wholesale cost. The results of the first round of price disclosures for simvastatin indicate that pharmacists have actually been paying, on average, $10 for this drug.

Using data from Medicare Australia, it is possible to estimate that total PBS payments to cover the wholesale cost of simvastatin amounted to around $150 million between May 2010 and October 2011. Price disclosure data reveal that pharmacies only spent $70 million on the drug, due to discounts from manufacturers.

So these reforms mean that where pharmacies may have previously had the opportunity to pocket the difference, they will soon have less of a financial motive to encourage you to switch to a generic medicine. We're not suggesting that pharmacies are all acting inappropriately in the first place — after all generic medicines are no different to branded medicines in that they can only be sold to you on a doctor's prescription — but you have the right to know the facts, so that you can make the right choice for you.

A good pharmacist will work hard to negotiate deals with generic manufacturers

"A good pharmacist will work hard to negotiate deals with generic manufacturers to increase their bottom line," says Luke Owen, pharmacist manager at Terrigal Pharmacy on the NSW central coast. "It is in a pharmacist’s best interest to substitute, because, put simply, originator brands charge a pharmacist more money for the same thing."

While it's true that pharmacists are offered price incentives to offer generic medicines where appropriate, increased competition provides more choice and a better outcome for patients. "The consumer stands to win from switching their medicines to a generic, as the price premium paid for an original brand of medicine can be substantial," says Sydney-based pharmacist Mandy Ambler. "Neither the pharmacist, nor the government pocket this extra cost — the pharmaceutical companies do. To an elderly pensioner taking many medications, the brand price premium can be prohibitive."

Given the opportunity to spend less for an identical product, most of us would do that. But that in turn raises another question:

Are generic medicines really the same as their branded counterparts?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer: Generic medicines and branded medicines contain the same active ingredient, but they may have different inactive ingredients. The active ingredient is the part of the drug that makes you better, and the inactive ingredients, known as excipients, are the bulking agents, fillers and lubricants that bind the medicine together and allow the medicine to be reliably produced, stored, delivered and absorbed in the body.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requires generic medicines to undergo a bioequivalency test to ensure that they meet the same quality criteria and manufacturing standards as the brand-name products. This means that the generic medicine must have an equivalent drug-plasma concentration profile to the original, non-generic brand.

Andrew McLachlan, Professor of Pharmacy (Aged Care) at the University of Sydney, says that bioequivalence testing ensures that the effects of generic medicines are the same as branded medicines:

[Bioequivalence testing] involves administration of each brand of that medicine to healthy volunteers, usually on two separate occasions. They provide blood samples in which they measure the concentration of the drug itself, or whatever it's broken down to, and they make a direct comparison between each brand of the medicine to make sure the concentration in their blood is the same whether they receive the generic or whether they receive the branded medicine... if you achieve the same concentration in your blood, you should expect the same beneficial effects and even harmful effects.

The active ingredient is, for efficacy and safety purposes, a carbon copy of the originator

Owen says that those of us who choose generics have nothing to worry about. "It is a common misconception that generics are like comparing your favourite supermarket brands with home brand, or a cheaper and inferior product," he says. "This is not the case; the active ingredient is, for efficacy and safety purposes, a carbon copy of the originator."

According to the Generic Medicines Industry Association (GMiA), generics make up just 36 per cent of medicines dispensed in Australia, although it's as high as 78 per cent in the US. Despite the evidence, it's clear that doubts about generic medicines persist for one reason or another. A national survey in 2008 (PDF) found that 20.6 per cent of pharmacists either agreed or strongly agreed that generic medicines were not always as effective as branded medicines, while a further 22 per cent were undecided. Similarly, one-fifth of general practitioners (PDF) either agreed or strongly agreed that generic medicines were not as effective as branded medicines, with 30.8 per cent undecided. With financial and political motives overshadowing the agenda, it's no wonder that consumers are also confused.

When should I NOT substitute?

If you've ever noticed the "brand substitution not allowed" box on your prescriptions and wondered what that was for, this is it. Sometimes, it's not in your best interest to substitute your branded medicine for a generic brand, and your pharmacist has a duty of care to inform you if this is the case. For example, a patient with Alzheimer's disease may become confused by switching brands, due to a change in the medicine's appearance and packaging. Photo by Phoenix Dark-Knight (Flickr).

Owen says that a patient's stability should not be compromised by brand swapping. For example, dispensing generic brands to epilepsy patients is not recommended (PDF), as inactive ingredients may affect the level of the active ingredient in the blood stream. The sensitive nature of the disorder means that even the slightest change can be dangerous to the patient. "If we vary brands we may cause the serum levels to fluctuate significantly giving rise to the potential risk of a seizure," says former pharmacist Jeff Baker. "Carbamazepine is an anti-convulsant that should not be substituted for this reason."

If one particular brand of medicine contains an inactive ingredient that you may have an allergy or intolerance to, such as gluten or lactose, your doctor or pharmacist will give you the brand that is most appropriate for your individual needs.

Baker also brings an ethical argument into consideration, saying that GPs may be biased and actively support drug companies and specific brands. This is a controversial point beyond the scope of this article, but if you've ever seen the 2010 movie Love and Other Drugs, you'll know that brand favouritism is not a far-fetched idea.

"As long as the generic has been proven bioequivalent by TGA and the doctor has not ticked 'brand substitution not allowed', it is at the pharmacist’s discretion to choose what brand they would like to dispense," says Owen. "When pharmacists ask if patients would like the generic it is purely a courtesy and not a legal requirement."

Baker says that we shouldn't underestimate the importance of generic medicines. "Many drug companies supply generic manufacturers with raw material and enjoy income from both generic and branded sources. The generic market allows for greater prescribing and treatment at reduced costs. This in itself allows for the masses to be treated rather than the privileged few."

The best thing you can do for yourself is to be armed with the right information and ask the right questions. If you're allergic or intolerant to anything, tell your doctor and pharmacist so that they can give you the most appropriate treatment. Learn the active ingredient of the medicines you're taking — not just the brand name. If you're taking lots of different medicines at once, make sure you know what each one is for. And don't be afraid to ask questions about your medicines — you have a right to know your choices.

What's your take on generic medicines? Share your experience with us in the comments.

Special thanks to Andrew McLachlan, Jeff Baker, Mandy Ambler, Luke Owen and Kate Lynch for their contribution.


Comments

    The PBS reforms are welcome news.
    It's surprising the government isn't beating their drum a bit louder on this one!
    As for generic medicines. They're great! Why pay more for a fancy pack and name when you can get the pharmacologically identical product for less?

    Excellent article. I never really thought about this before - when my pharmacist offers me generic branding I figure i'm saving a few bucks and go for it. There's no reason not to (unless there's an allergen or something else potentially harmful to you in the inactive ingredients, in which case I assume your pharmacist would ask "hey before I give you the generic brand, are you allergic to arsenic?").

    Medication is one of those things there's no prestige in so why does it need to be the 'brand' medication anyway? I'm only even aware prescription medication HAVE branding because my pharmacist started offering me the generic alternative.

    What would be the incentive for pharmacists to negotiate cheaper prices now? seeing as they don't pocket any difference?

      We are in a interesting position these days where Pharmacy as an industry is having to reinvent itself. This includes fees for service, and developing more professional services to supplement income.

    I don't tend to go for generic brands - both as the chemist brands haven't seemed quite as effective, and because I often get annoyed at their pushy sales efforts. (Including being told I was an idiot for not buying their cheaper brand!) The ingredient argument doesn't sway me much either. Give me and Jamie Oliver the same basket of ingredients, and I'll bet you his cooking results will be more effective than mine.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted

        Max, not only is that just not a productive attitude, it is actually a well documented fact that different binding agents can cause the general effect to be different in some people owing to how everyone breaks down certain chemicals differently.

        That’s ok Max – I’ve also summarily concluded what sort of person you are.

        I am surprised at the venom from the generic brand cheer squad. Glad people have had good experiences with them, and are happy with the money they have saved.

        I’ve had to use a wide variety of prescription drugs over many years aimed at trying to stop or dull the impact from chronic headaches. I have had a couple experiences were generic products were not as effective as a branded one I normally used – either potency, how long they took to work, or how long they lasted. The difference might only have been minor, but the consequence for me can be very nasty. (Ending up in bed, throwing up with migraine, instead of walking around functioning with a bad headache.)

        But to use a more specific example – within the last month I have had to spend two weeks on antibiotics. The first week was with a brand name tablet, the second was a generic version of the same. (The chemist supplied this without asking permission). Both seemed to be effective, but the Generic one left a nastier after taste, and the tablet was sticky / more difficult to swallow. In this one example, the $2 saving wasn't worth it for me.

      generic drugs are just as effective as brand name, period. the big pharmaceuticals like to make you believe they're not, but that's how they make their money. Just because they are more expensive doesn't meant it costs more to produce them, drug prices form big pharma are often based on the median income of the country.

      in the end if the end result is you being fed, it doesnt matter who cooks it if your ingredients are the same. it may taste worse, but in the end, you have ingested calories.

        I tend to prefer the brand names myself, at least for one specific medication that I'm prescribed daily. The generic didn't seem as effective, but I wonder if it was dimply because of my mindset.

        If you expect something to be inferior, you may feel that it is inferior, even if it has the exact same effect. The mind is just as powerful as any drug.

        You could not be more wrong. I have taken the same medication for 15 yrs and the day the pharmacy switched to a generic (without telling me or asking) I had a VERY bad reaction. My MD told me that the two meds are NOT the same, after the Pharmacy swore up and down they are.

        I had two sessions to remove my wisdom teeth. For the first two I took the brand version of paracetamol /codeine mix. The result was zero pain.

        For the bottom two wisdom teeth I took the generic. I spent the whole recovery time with a dull level of pain. Whatever the different biding agents had an impact on they worked on me.

      I agree with Doug on this issue, the quality becomes the bigger issue. I have taken the 'cheaper' option a couple of times now without too much issue in the past. Recently however, I took the cheaper version of Panadeine Forte, and it left me with the worst side effects i'd ever experienced with any drug. After the problems that caused, I have now become very skeptical about the cheap alternatives.

        you have any idea of the size of the class action lawsuit that would occur if a generic drug had different side effects to a brand name one its emulating?

          Rob - The side effects I suffered under the alternate brand weren't different, but i'd never encountered any side effects using the name brand painkillers. Unfortunately I have been forced to rely on painkillers quite often over the past couple of years, and this really was the first time i'd ever had an issue. I was simply relating my experience and the reasoning behind not buying them.

            It's entirely possible that your body reacted to the 'inactive' ingredients, in which case, I'd head for the brand name version.

            My dad used to take a liquid supplement, and someone once sold him the concentrate version, because "it's exactly the same, you just have to add water". Except it wasn't exactly the same, because one of the preservatives in the concentrate wasn't in the regular version. It caused him massive stomach complaints (until recently he has had ulcers for most of his life, and still suffers reflux on the odd occasion). The manufacturer swore up and down that it was exactly the same, until Dad got a hold of one of the chemists in the company, who said "of course it isn't exactly the same!".

            The prices with Panadeine Forte can get pretty outrageous if you're getting multiple packets at a time so if you are needing them a lot I'd suggest asking your pharmacist for another generic brand. There's a ton of different companies making that one and if your pharmacist is a decent one they may even do some research for you and find one that's a closer match. I've had a few people who swear by one particular cheaper brand over others so it might be worth a try if it's getting a bit costly for you.

    Interestingly enough, while they are "the same" many of the generic brands also have a higher margin of error for active ingredient. Only maybe by 1 or 2% per dose, but the difference does exist, and is just an interesting little fact.

      please supply any reference possible for this statement.

        I'll dig some up for you. I know there was a journal mid last year i read covering it. Obviously its not the same for all manufacturers or all products. This particular journal was mostly focused on pain medications.

      I too am interested in a reference for this. The TGA allows the same leeway/margin of error for originator AND generic companies - plus or minus 5%, i.e. 95-105% active ingredient

      This is absolutely correct according to my Oncologist. I have to repeatedly stand my ground at the Chemists to insist I do not be given the generic form of the life saving cancer medication I take. My Oncologist states that the clinical trials over a 5 to 7 year period were taken on the original branded medication and there are no studies proving the efficacy of the substitute. The small margin of "error" for the generic could be in her opinion, enough over a period of time, to tip the survival scales for me, the patient. I have had the discussion with our local Pharmacist who claims my Oncologist is incorrect. I wonder about the legal repercussions of changing a medication against the wishes of the Doctor and their patient. I think they are relying on their assertions that these medications are "equal". Interestingly, none of the doctors I consult with take or allow their family members to take generics. The all have a lot of anecdotal stories of an apparent diffence in results in some instances. I get my doctors to mark the scripts with substitution not allowed. My Chemist is now resorting to bullying tactics by charging me full price for branded medications despite being a concession holder on the basis that they couldn't buy the drug at a cheaper price. This is a new tactic to force me over to generics. I am not anti generics. I do see that there are many benefits, just not to people to whom the branded medication may be critical and our right to choose is being seriously eroded by the pharmacies and generic drug industries .

        Nanny, I too have stood my ground on generic supplements from the chemists but unfortunately over the last 4 -6 months, I've had no choice but to use generic subscriptions as my branded antidepressant brand has not been available in Australia for approximately 1 year due to 1 ingredient they don't have. Since being on antidepressants for 13 years, I've just been on generic brand my whole personalities have changed in a way for the worst. I have constant suicidal thoughts, become agressive, stay in bed most of the day, anti-social, affected my speech (words pronunciation) hence reluctant to talk, confusion with in my self. I'm now seeking help to change over onto another antidepressant, so I question just what ingredients are in generic brands and why government (TGA) doesn't act on these brands causing unnecessary stress and be up front with the public.
        Febe

    I tend to buy the real thing, because I feel that on some level I'm contributing to the R&D that went into it.

    I haven't had to buy medicines very often, and when I have the original product was only a little more expensive than the generic.

    I kind of see the generics as freeloading off the original R&D.

      So do you think lipitor, making billions of dollars per year, hasn't yet paid off R&D costs? Patent lengths ensure these costs are covered, and then some.

        I was speaking personally, and I've never needed Lipitor. But anyway, it's not just paying off R&D. If these companies were only out to pay off costs then that would officially make them non-profit companies. If the drugs aren't profitable then they will stop the R&D.

      just remember, the whole point of PBS reforms are to lower the price that the government pays, so it frees up more money to fund expensive drugs, e.g. $1700/month injections for rheumatoid arthritis etc
      http://www.pbs.gov.au/medicine/item/5281Y-5282B-5283C-5284D-8737W-8741C-8961P-8962Q-8963R-8964T-8965W-8966X-9033K-9034L-9077R-9078T-9099X-9100Y-9101B-9102C-9103D-9104E-9186L-9187M-9188N-9189P-9190Q-9191R-9425C-9426D-9427E-9428F-9661L-9662M-9663N-9678J-9679K-9680L

        Lipitor was just an example. Like I said, patent lengths ensure not only R&D is paid off, but ample profits are achieved. Find me a drug where this is not the case and I will be very surprised. In fact you won't be able to, it's impossible.

        But when it all boils down, what brand you choose is up to you.

        Lipitor was just an example. Like I said, patent lengths ensure not only R&D is paid off, but ample profits are achieved. Find me a drug where this is not the case and I will be very surprised. In fact you won’t be able to, it’s impossible.

        But when it all boils down, what brand you choose is up to you.

          Actually the statistics beg to differ: For every 100 drugs that go through clinical trials, only one of them will be in any position to reimburse their own R&D costs, and produce a profit. That's why patents are so important: it's the only way the company can recoup their costs for the drug produced, and the 100's that have gotten to some point in the development process, but not to market, having incurred massive costs.
          Exubera is a drug that you will find was in the market and then withdrawn due to poor sales. It cost Billions to develop, but only sold $20m in it's first year. It did not return on the investment in any way shape or form, and it was costing more to keep it on the market than to abandon it.

    Good article. Original content, specific to the Australian context. Win.

    Some pretty dumb comments after, but if you want to get taken for a ride or like the good feelings you get from paying more, away you go then.

    My girlfriend (who has epilepsy) had her brand switched to generic , and that didn't end well, when she told me that i just assumed it wasn't related, but it appears i was wrong. But to this day she is very much set on brand names (even for pain killers, where im always one to get generics for all but the most serious medications)

    Scientists, Doctors, etc. still don't understand why the same drug works differently or has side effects for different people. Drugs are very very complex and the differences in our genetic makeup, biochemical compositions etc. mean that there are a large number of factors, many that we don't yet understand.

    So that said, there's no greater risk in taking a 'generic' brand than there is in taking the drug to begin with. Some people will experience a result, others will have no side effects, others will have side effects. It just depends on the person and we can't really predict it. The only thing to do is to keep track of what you have and haven't taken, any reactions you have and if it's not working or giving you a reaction, tell the doctor and avoid in the future.

    There's no point in sitting here counting the horror stories vs the well nothing bad happened so it must be ok stories. We're all different.

    I don't take drugs. I'm mostly healthy and sane, probably. I especially don't take drugs at the drop of a hat like most people I know.

    Oh dear I cut myself (drug).
    Pooey, this headache's darn painful (drug).
    My word I feel funny (drugs).
    /Sniff (drugs)
    /cough (drugs).
    /cry (drugs)
    /energetic (drugs).
    /Aggressive (drugs).
    *exploitable & gullible* (drugged)

    We're a drugged society and have forgotten how to naturally get over out bodily mishaps. Yes I understand that some people definitely need meds because their body CANNOT repair or take care of itself. But taking panadol to get over a headache is just pathetic. Just deal with it like a normal human being...

      As alluded to in your post, things affect people differently. I agree with you people take too many drugs, but I can see by your post that you've never in your life experienced a true migraine.

    Very good article, thanks.

    While here in Australia the choice of generics over branded medicines is a bit of a luxury, abroad it can be a matter of life an death. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is fighting to ensure that millions of patients around the world continue to have access to life-saving affordable medicines. See here for more info:
    http://www.msfaccess.org/

    This article should point out that the qualifying factor on whether a company needs to disclose it's pricing is which PBS formulary the drug comes under, and it's not as clear-cut as simply having a generic bioequivalent drug available.

    Pricing disclosure applies to drugs on the F2 formulary which means there is more than one brand of that particular drug available OR that the drug belongs to "a therapeutic group with other drugs with multiple brands"

    With that terminology the government has exercised some creative license in applying pricing disclosure to different drugs. (perhaps dependent on how costly they are to the PBS)

    Basically there are drugs on that list which don't have a bioequivalent generic but are still subject to pricing disclosure, the big one that stood out to me (because I take it myself) was Nexium which IS still subject to pricing disclosure even though there is currently no generic available.

    Having said that in the governments defense Nexium is not prescribed to treat a life-threatening condition. I had a quick skim through the list to look for any other big drugs that don't currently have a generic, and it looks like all the main ones are not on there, so perhaps they considered the severity of disease as a secondary factor.

    Another statement in defense of the government/PBS is that although there are some drugs that are subject to price disclosure and have no bioequivalent generic available, if the doctor prescribes a drug then the patient only receives that drug, not a generic of a different drug in the same class.

    So the only real losers from pricing disclosure are the drug companies (which I'm sure will continue to do just fine) and pharmacies that generate revenue from a big markup on generics. Judging by this article there are pharmacies out there who try to negotiate deals with wholesalers in order to increase their margins (which they are well and truly entitled to do) that might need to rely on some alternative sources of revenue.

    For the everyday taxpayer and for patients it's a win/win although those who chose branded products because they feel they are supporting R&D costs should also be aware that the PBS appears to have arbitrarily applied this law to at least one big brand name drug which doesn't currently have a generic.

    The only reason I say it could potentially restrict R&D is because in Australia the decision to market a new drug might be affected by the price of generics in its class, even though that exact drug has no generic bioequivalent alternative. Companies may decide that it's only profitable now to introduce a new drug into a brand new class. They may also decide against introducing a new drug if there is an existing class that is similar in chemistry, even if their new drug does genuinely offer safety/efficacy benefits over the older similar drugs available.

    "as inactive ingredients may affect the level of the active ingredient in the blood stream"

    "medicine contains an inactive ingredient that you may have an allergy or intolerance to"

    So actually, they ar similar, not the same. My wife is asthmatic, and for years has said Ventolin is more effective than the others. Recently, a pharmacist forced a generic on me, when I asked for Ventolin. Now I know why, and also know I won't go back to that pharmacy...

    I tried a generic alternative to a gastric reflux drug (Somac, pantoprazole), fully expecting it to be the same.
    It basically didn't work and, after two weeks of increasing symptoms, I went back to the branded version.

    Just one data-point, of course, but I'm now in the position of knowing that the anti-placebo effect is likely to affect any other generics I try!

      I'm having the same problem - have been on the generic for the past week and a half and my stomach is starting to hurt again - I've been on the branded version for 2 years and not had this problem

    Just wondering if I buy the cheaper substitute, will it take me longer to get to the threshold where I can get my medicin for around $5 a script instead of $35? Usually reach that point in October and love it when it only costs my wife and I around $30 a month instead of $180-$200. :)

      In regards to your Safety Net, if you do not reach the threshold (if the script is under $35.40 if it is not counted), you won't be entitled to concession pricing. However, buying cheaper brands would save you more in the long run anyway

    Hi there,
    I'm a training pharmacist, a good majority of the community clients I see daily understand the difference between generics and brands, others simply don't care!
    But there is about 15-20% that think that generics don't work the same way or they complain that they don't feel the effects as they did with the brands.
    I am just sick to death of irate and misinformed customers coming in and yelling at me about generics when they have no clue.
    I personally think that the government of this country should be running sensible advertising campaigns on billboards, t.v and the radio prime time to get the right message out there!!
    It's the governments responsibility to ensure it's communities understand the movement and evolution into the world of generics, as there are a lot of ill conceived notions about the generics being manufacture in India and 3rd world countries with other actives and harmful excipients.

    Also, on another note: I can't believe medicare can recognise and alert a pharmacist via a location in real time that the script is invalid but the same system can't share with you how many times the script has been dispensed and even how many repeats are still valid. This is retarded as it's not like your obtaining any further information, this comes in handy when a lost customer brings in deferred script with the repeats missing etc.

    Any ideas guys???

    I don't like generic medicine and only because of past bad experiences. Twice with my parents and once with myself. It's not a choice I will ever take and I would rather spend my last dollars on the brand name than on a product that only serves to be an experiment on us. This is my choice on my own experiences and not something I would preach to others. If it works for you great, but it didn't work for me nor my parents.

    I am sick and tired of my Pharmacist changing my prescription to a generic brand without asking me first. I have not, and never will, use any drug that my GP has not prescribed.

      Billionaires around the world rejoice to your words. For it only the wealthy drug companies that can promote drugs to drs. This attitude will destroy public funding of medication.

    Hey guys - NEWSFLASH or RIPPED OFF ?
    I accidentally found out that MY chemist charges the same price for some generic brands as they do for the brand name - GO FIGURE - is it just me or is this a rip off ? When I explained that I and everyone I knew believed that generics were cheaper (else why would you want them ) I received a short explanation about how it helps the government - well this may well be true, BUT surely having to pay the same price isn't right. I challenged on this, and was then told that every other chemist does the same with many products. Can this possibly be true ? I personally think this is a total rip off and IF other pharmacies in fact are doing the same, then this is a monumental scam on the public, the majority of whom would be under the impression generics are ALWAYS cheaper.
    How many of us trust the pharmacist and never check ?

    I have been on Zoloft since 1995,everything was ok until I was switched to the generic Eliva over two years ago.My depression returned,I kept telling my psychiatrist that something was wrong.To cut a long story short,I am now back on the brand Zoloft.No one in Australia seems to know that there is a problem with certain generics.

    We have an 88 year old friend who was prescribed a well known blood pressure tablet.
    A shop assistant at her local Chemist told her that the prescribed brand was no longer made and recommended their chains generic brand.
    After a week of taking the substitute she gradually became ill and was rushed to Hospital. Medical opinion was that the substitute was not the same as the prescribed brand and caused her blood pressure go haywire.
    My wife takes the same medication and called at the same Pharmacy.
    She was given the same story as our friend. My wife argued that the tablet was still being manufactured and that she would refer the matter to Fair Trading.
    The Shop Assistant quickly replied "Did I say that they weren't made any more? I am sorry I meant we are out of stock."
    I went into the store 30 minutes later with my wife's script and said from the start that I did not want a generic brand. Hey presto, I was handed the prescribed brand.
    The matter has been reported to Fair Trading to investigate.

    My Chemist always replaces all the medication with a generic brand without even asking. I've just started on a few new medications and I'm so confused, my doc talks about the medication and how I should be taking them, then the pills I get have a completely different name...my husband is the same, he takes 4 different pills, I take 5, sometimes we don't know who's who and we're not old, how are the old people coping??
    When I insisted that one of the pills had to be the original, he got annoyed and told me that he doesn't keep it and he has to order it in...I had a look at his shelf and 90% of the drugs that I could see are all generic, so he must be making a lot of money on them. I know for a fact that one pill I take, the generic is NOT as good as the branded version, I can tell the difference.

    Very interesting reading, including the comments, thank you!
    I've just been given the generic brand of panadine forte at a small saving of $3 and so far, it's fine..
    I must admit I was a little worried and annoyed that I wasn't asked first but I was in so much pain I couldn't be bothered to argue. It's called "Apo" and if anything if possibly say its better as I'm not feeling dazed but the pain has definitely subsided greatly. :)

    My Doctor marks my scripts NO to substitution brand But the cute assistant is told to ask if the change will be ok ,I say just look at the script ,they still ask again ,One thing that bothers me the packaging looks very much like an original brand which is really upsetting the elderly are the ones who suffer the most. It all revolves around the Holy Dollar and sod the patient. The Truth is out there. :-)

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