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Q&A: What is generic medication?

generic meds, Express Scripts Canada

Why are generic prescription medicines important to the sustainability of drug benefit plans and the overall health-care system?

In Canada, more than 70 percent* of all prescriptions are filled with generic medicines, yet they account for only 22 percent of the $26-billion Canadians spend annually on prescription medicines. On average, more than 1.25 million prescriptions are filled with generic medicines every day in Canada.

It’s safe to say that most Canadians know that generic prescription medicines cost less than their brand-name equivalents but it’s also important to underscore that generic medicines offer the same quality, safety and efficacy as their higher-priced brand-name equivalents.

How is it that generic drugs offer the same quality, safety and efficacy as brand-name drugs?

All drugs – brand-name and generic – are reviewed and authorized for sale by Health Canada before they are available for prescription. A generic drug is designed to work the same way in the body as the original brand-name drug.

Do generic drugs have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs?

Yes. Generic drugs have the same active ingredient, which is the chemical that makes the drug work.  That means that generic medicines work the same way in the body as the brand-name drug. Generic medicines must also have the same amount of active ingredient in the prescription.

What about the non-medicinal ingredients?

The non-medicinal ingredients, such as fillers and preservatives, may be different from brand-name products, but they are also regulated and subject to the same review process.

Do the same manufacturing standards apply to generic and brand-name drugs?

Yes. To receive a license to manufacture and sell drugs in Canada, both brand-name companies and generic drug companies must follow the same good manufacturing practices (GMP) guidelines, which ensure consistent production and quality standards.

Do generic drugs offer the same safety and efficacy as brand-name drugs?

Yes. When a generic prescription drug has been reviewed, and authorized for sale by Health Canada, it means the medicine is as safe and effective as the original brand-name drug and works the same way in the body.

Why should I believe you? You work for the generic pharmaceutical industry.

I’m proud of the generic pharmaceutical industry and the key role it plays it Canada’s health-care system and economy but you don’t have to take my word for it. There are plenty of independent sources that will provide you with the accurate information about the quality, safety and efficacy of generic prescription medicines.

One such source is the Canadian Agency for Drug Technologies in Health (CADTH). CADTH is an independent agency funded by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments. To learn more, visit the Canadian Agency for Drug Technologies in Health (CADTH) website.

    Read:  Generic Drugs: Your Questions Answered

Why should Canadians care about the price of prescription drugs when most people are covered by their drug plans?

Drug plans are benefits to keep Canadians and their families healthy. These drug plans are paid for by employers, governments, associations and in some cases by individuals. The cost associated with a drug plan is related to the amount of money we spend on prescription medicines. By keeping the costs down, we all have an opportunity to maintain the benefit levels we currently enjoy. Generic medicines are priced less than brand-name drugs and can contribute to an affordable and sustainable drug plan for you and your family. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is a generic equivalent available for your prescription needs.

Jim Keon is President of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA)

*According to the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

Express Scripts Canada