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).