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Generic Medicines Frequently Asked Questions

Generic Medicines FAQs

Make the choice. Ask for a generic.

Your pharmacist may offer you a generic alternative to your usual brand of medicine.

The following information provides answers to some frequently asked questions about generic medicines to help you make an informed choice about your medicines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a generic medicine?

A generic medicine is simply an alternative brand. It contains the same active ingredient as the original brand in the same dose and strength and it's absorbed into the body at the same rate.

When a pharmaceutical company first develops a new medicine, it usually applies for and is granted a patent. A patent allows the pharmaceutical company to manufacture and sell that drug exclusively for a period of time without competition.

Once the patent expires, competition is allowed and other companies can make and sell generic versions of the original brand of medicine.

Q. Are generic medicines exactly the same as the original brand of medicine?

A generic medicine contains the same active ingredient, in the same strength and dose. Medicines also contain inactive ingredients that have no therapeutic effect but are used, for example, to give the tablet a protective coating or to bind it together. Inactive ingredients may differ between medicines, nevertheless every generic medicine on the market is proven, to the satisfaction of the Australian Government's drug agency, to operate in the same way on the body as the original brand of medicine.

The same strict manufacturing, quality and safety standards are applied to a generic medicine and original brand of medicine alike. Every manufacturer in which a generic medicine is made, stored or packed must be certified by the Australian Government as meeting these standards. The Australian Government also regularly checks up on these manufacturers to ensure ongoing compliance. This should give you peace of mind when it comes to choosing a generic medicine.

Most people do not need to worry about the inactive ingredients in generic medicines, but if you have an allergy or are sensitive to certain substances (e.g. lactose or preservatives) always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Q. Is a generic medicine right for me?

In most cases the answer is yes, but you should always discuss changes in your medication with your doctor or pharmacist first. This includes making sure that you do not have an allergy to any of the inactive ingredients in the generic medicine.

Q. Will I save money with a generic medicine?

On occasion, yes.

The price of most prescription medicines is subsidised by the Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The patient pays a co-payment fee. If both the original brand of medicine and a generic version of the medicine are listed on the PBS Schedule, the Government will subsidise both versions to the same extent.

If the manufacturer of the original brand of medicine imposes a 'Brand Price Premium' it means that a patient will need to pay a higher price for that version of the medicine. In those cases choosing the generic version over the original brand of medicine will save you money.

In some cases, the price of the generic medicine will be below the co-payment fee. In this case the cheaper medicine will directly benefit the patient.

Q. Why would I choose a generic medicine?

Choose a generic medicine today and invest in a healthier future for Australia.

Did you know that the introduction and sale of generic prescription medicines generally results in substantial savings to our healthcare system? The government pays successively less for the medicines starting with a mandatory price reduction and then through weighted average prices of the competitive medicines. Those savings are then available to help strengthen our healthcare system by providing a pool of money for funding new and expensive drugs, such as cancer treatments, at a subsidised rate.

Q. Will my doctor mind if I get a generic medicine instead?

When doctors write a prescription they have the option to not permit generic substitution. If they do not use that option, the pharmacist knows that generic substitution is permitted.

Q. How can I get a generic medicine?

Easy — just ask your doctor to write your prescription using the medicine's active ingredient or, unless your doctor has said that substitution is not permitted, ask your pharmacist to dispense the generic version.

Did you know?

  • Generic medicines contain the same active ingredient(s) as the original brand of medicine.
  • Generic medicines have to pass the same strict manufacturing tests and Government quality standards as the original brand of medicine.
  • Generic does not mean a lower standard of quality.
  • The same strict manufacturing, quality and safety standards are applied to a generic medicine and original brand of medicine alike.
  • Generic medicines help the Australian community save money for the healthcare system through savings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

For more information and advice about generic medicines, speak to your pharmacist or doctor or call Apotex on 1 800 195 055.