Go generic!

By   January 13, 2012
Many of us are aware of the difference between generic drugs and branded drugs. For those who are not, generic is the chemical ingredient of the drug and brand name is the particular name by which the drug is sold by individual pharma companies. Just like other branded goods, branded drugs are expensive, sometimes manifold. But unlike clothes, cars, jewellery, drugs do not really offer a show-off value or possession quotient. All one cares for is the drug to alleviate the symptoms it is meant to alleviate and be pure and safe. Hence, paying for the branding of the drug versus a generic is a wasteful expense.
To give an example paracetamol (a common painkiller and fever reducer) is very commonly sold as Crocin in India. In this case, there might not be too much price differential between the brand and the generic. But those who take Tylenol in the US will agree that there is quite a price gap between it and its generic available.
Now, I am not trying to show off my understanding of drugs here. I’ve known and noticed that doctors regularly prescribe branded drugs (often very costly), offering no perceivable additional benefits as compared to their generic that are priced at a fraction of cost. My dog was prescribed Augmentin 625mg recently as an antibiotic. The cost of 10 tabs is approximately Rs. 440. Its generic counterpart having the same chemical composition (amoxicillin and clavulanate) costs Rs. 108. You see the difference of 3 times, yet 2 doctors prescribed this, and I had to specifically ask the pharmacy to give me the generic.

A month back, my dog was prescribed Nizoral tabs for a fungal infection. I was told to give it for 6 weeks and just 3 days’ supply costs Rs. 250 (no exaggeration)! On calling up the vet and cajoling her, she prescribed an alternative grisovin by Glaxo that costed Rs. 15 for a week’s dose. This seemed like a huge price difference to me. You will find this happening for many drugs. Do compare the costs of various OTC (over-the-counter) vitamin supplements available at your pharmacist and see for yourself. You might be fleeced and end up paying pharma companies because they are telling your doctor (giving commissions) to prescribe you expensive drugs.

For OTC and commonly used drugs, it would help to check for the generic alternatives. Your pharmacy person can easily guide you, and you can compare the chemical composition along with potency. You can even call up your Doctor, and I’ve done that many times, and they have told me the generic name when I said that the drug they prescribed is too expensive and the pharmacy person is suggesting an alternative and cross-checking with the doctor if it is fine.

So, demand information, use information, browse the net and don’t get fleeced. 

Footnote: Please be careful when buying generic substitutes from unknown pharma companies due to so many fakes available in the market. But many times good generic substitutes from reputed pharma companies are available at a lesser cost as in the examples given above. At least try asking your doctor, most good doctors do give you a substitute. Even good vets give. I have experienced this umpteen times. Many of them are not willing to risk their reputation when their patient insists upon asking for a perfectly acceptable cheaper substitute (if available).


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Hi! I am a professional Content Writer and co-owner of a Technology startup, Tranquil Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd. I am a Major in Chemistry and MBA in Marketing Management from NMIMS, Mumbai. After having worked in Brand Management, I took a sabbatical when I had my kids. I did dabble in Teaching and Medical Transcription in my quest to balance my work-life after my kids. And finally I stumbled upon writing. Having started this blog in 2008, I ventured into professional content writing. And I continue to grow and work with some amazing people in the field of writing. This blog still continues to be a strong reflection of my thinking, opinions, perceptions and wisdom. I am mother to two bratty boys and a Labrador and loving wife to a wonderful man. I go the extra mile for friends and love a good conversation. Uncomplicated, I tend to open up easily to those close to me. I have lived around the world including the US and Europe. I don't have it all figured out, but I am enjoying the journey that is life!

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45 Comments on “Go generic!

  1. KParthasarathi

    The trick is they add a component over the generic drug in branded drugs.We are made to believe that this combo is better than pure generic drug.
    I even saw the same generic drug without any addition are sold at varying prices by the different pharmaceutical companies.People should google and find out
    Thanks

    1. Rachna

      Yes, they do that too sometimes to peddle their “better” drug. Also googling and finding out is a very good idea. I do that for most drugs.

  2. zephyr

    I agree with KP about the companies adding some ingredient which even the doctors say is necessary or ‘better’. Also while buying the generic drug, it is important to buy that of a good company since Indian drug market is flooded with spurious ones.

    1. Rachna

      @zephyr Okay haven’t faced that problem from the doctors so far. Most of them provide the generic substitute immediately. Yes, I wanted to put that point about buying from known companies only. It somehow slipped my mind when I composed the post. Thanks for pointing it out :).

    1. Rachna

      Thank you. Yes, they don’t have time but most of them do inform if you ask specifically. Many get commissions to prescribe certain drugs, so they will surely not be upfront with it.

  3. Bikramjit

    hmmm now that is some info, These days another problem is too many companies making the same thing , and then the doctors get commission too for prescribing the particular drug..

    and As i read Zephyr’s comment that is another problem spurious drug makers are aplenty, I was appalled when i found one of my friends was caught by police as he had a factory which was making some sort of drug and selling … and it was a FAKE …
    well he is no morea friend of mine … for sure..

    ITs ok in uk then, the doctore prescibes and since i earn above the threshhold i have to pay I think about 6pound per prescription, doesnot matter how many medicines are on it .. so its cheaper here .. and one gets good drugs too

    but i have seen in india you can get any medicine over the counter …

    Bikram’s

    1. Rachna

      actually, these days it is not so easy to get any drug without prescription. Your friend did deserve jail and all those who make fake drugs. Yes, doctors get commissions, but I’ve seen that most good doctors don’t want to risk their reputations by insisting upon a drug that has a perfectly acceptable cheaper substitute. In my experience, I’ve noticed that doctors do provide an alternative when I tell them that this is working out to be too expensive or is not available. In no way am I saying that one must just accept drugs from unknown companies to save pennies. In UK and US, it makes much more sense to go the prescription route but for OTCs the above does apply.

  4. Shilpa Garg

    Agree completely, generic makes sense as against expensive branded drugs. But yes, check the company… there is a HUGE generic market consisting of goods from fly-by-night operators containing sub-standard drugs, sub-optimal quantities…

    1. Rachna

      Yes, Shilpa but I’ve seen that doctors do provide the name of a substitute if you request. Good doctors do that. Both examples I mentioned above have substitutes from known pharma companies. One must use judgment before buying something from an unknown pharma company. Fly-by-night operators must be avoided like plague. Good pharmacies like Pill and Powder, Religare etc. normally do not pedal bad products either. So trusted pharmacies also do a better job.

  5. indianhomemaker

    This is such an informative post!! We just gave our dog Augmentin and yes it is expensive. And I hope, when we ask, then the doctors do inform us about the generic substitutes.

    1. Rachna

      Thank you IHM and welcome to my blog. It seems Augmentin is a favorite with vets. The one I am giving my dog currently in from Mankind Pharma. Yes, if you tell them pointblank that the drug is very expensive or unavailable, most docs do suggest alternatives. Try it and see.

  6. Irfanuddin

    Informative one…..but again when it comes to Doctors bcoz of known reasons they insist on buying some particular brand and normally people don’t go against their Doctor’s will….

  7. Insignia

    Rachna, a much needed post. I have observed this many times when you are prescribed for a brand than the chemical composition. I think this practice is maybe since 5-6 years ago.

    Pharma companies make billions out of these and sadly we are scapegoats.

  8. Tomz

    through researches and daily life practices..u r becoming as educated as a doctor..now can u prescribe medicines?

    1. Rachna

      You are pulling my leg,hehe. I have no such illusions that I am anywhere close to being a doctor. But, I prefer to read and understand and don’t take the doctor’s word to be final. These days docs are so busy that they hardly have time to explain things in detail; they have to be asked. You don’t know what to ask till you find out more. Besides that I am a Chemistry graduate and trained in Medical Transcription, so I know a bit more than most.

  9. Sahana Rao

    Good that you put this info Rachna. This is indeed very informative. But, I really do not know how can we actually know the genuine ones.

    1. Rachna

      It is not so difficult. Ask your doctor or pharmacy person for the generic substitute of the same drug. Check which pharma company produces the substitute. If they are a known name, go with the generic.

  10. Vaish

    I’m very bad with medicines and I don’t like having them! Your post gives a great insight! And particularly when the same composition of medicine is priced competitvely, why buy the expensive one! But sometimes, the buyer mentality comes into the picture. For someone like me, I think the expensive medicine must be much more effective, otherwise, it wouldn’t be expensive!!

    1. Rachna

      Yes, none of us likes having medicines. Like I explained, medicines more expensive are not necessarily due to better quality. In case of serious diseases like cancer etc. where the company might have done extensive research, the pricing could be due to a different reason. But for the common antibiotics, pain medications, fever medication, antifungal etc., it really provides no additional benefit to pay more. It is more in your mind :).

  11. Bhagyashree

    Yes for the common ailments, cold fever etc we can opt for generics.
    And the manufacturer has to be good. Sometimes if the manufacture is not done according to specifications, in controlled environment, its potency is effected.
    And I liked this reply format. :)

    1. Rachna

      Yes, I like Blogger :). Somehow, all of us are so intimidated to even ask for a cheaper generic thinking that it will be of lower quality. One has to understand that generic drugs have been around for ages and get decontrolled over a period of time thus making them cheaper to manufacture. Don’t think that generic drugs are being manufactured any different from a fancy brand name. In all probability you are just paying for that company’s frills not for the quality of your drug.

  12. Purba

    I think I”ll still stick to branded drugs just for the sake of safety :) But what most of don’t know is many pharmacies continue selling banned drugs. Newspapers often publish names that have been banned but chemists continue selling them.

    1. Rachna

      I will say the same to you as I did to Bhagyashree. Going with a brand or not is completely your choice :). I just wanted to point out that doctors are fleecing us by prescribing the most expensive drug needed for treatment. What you pointed about banned drugs not being withdrawn is another scam due to the lethargy of the watchdogs who are meant to enforce the callback. I guess, we must be aware and vigilant and stay away from banned drugs.

  13. rama

    even I always google and read about medicines. It is interesting and sometimes, they can even confuse the lay person with lots contradictions. Anyway, it till now the doctors, I have visited, which happens to be very few, have all given me medicines that were not expensive.
    One should avoid doctors who prescribe for the commission they get, for as it is they are all rolling in money, there are very few doctors who are truly concerned about the person’s capacity to pay for the medicines, if you find one you are lucky.

    1. Rachna

      Yes Rama, it does not take much to at least google the medicines and have some information. More than a doctor seeing the patient’s paying capacity, I see an issue with the doctor’s ethics when he knowingly prescribes an exorbitantly expensive medicine to make a few extra bucks! I know that the nobility has completely vanished from the profession when good, competent doctors recommend needless tests, expensive drugs and surgeries for commercial compulsions. At least with medicines, we can avoid being fooled if we try.

  14. Amrit

    We always try to find generic alternative. Here in the USA, docs are taken to dinners by drug companies, also drug companies bring lunches to their offices …. wonder why?

    1. Rachna

      Yes, I know. It actually makes sense to do that. And, pharma companies with deep pockets do this with doctors everywhere, sponsor seminars, offer fancy vacations, straight commissions etc. to peddle their products.

  15. jaish_vats

    Hi

    That was very informative. But drugs and medicines are areas where one tends to be careful and takes the doc’s words as Divine orders and so its very rare that people raise such questions…Also, a well known brand is like an assurance of quality or the lack of any goof-ups in the compositions and hence people just play it safe!

    1. Rachna

      I know, we tend to play it safe and hence get cheated. At least for regular medicines like antibiotics, painkillers etc., we can try taking generics.

    1. Rachna

      Yes, I did. Actually I reposted this just recently so that more people will know about this.

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