With the news released today about a generic option for Viagra to soon be offered in Canada, many people are wondering the same thing — what difference do generic drugs really make?

According to Health Canada, "the quality standards for brand name drugs and generic drugs are the same. The ingredients, manufacturing processes and facilities for all drugs must meet the federal guidelines for Good Manufacturing Practices." The difference, notes the agency's website, might be in the non-medicinal ingredients, the "fillers," such as colouring.

According to a 2010 article in The National Post, however, it can make a difference in patients' reactions. Dr. Howard Margolese, a psychiatrist in Montreal, published a paper citing three cases of patients who had schizophrenia and major-depressive disorder whose conditions worsened once they started taking generic drugs.

Other researchers, like U.S.-based pharmaceutical scientist Vinod P. Shah, believes generics are safe, but also noted that some options, like anti-seizure medications, blood thinners and thyroid hormone replacements, must be maintained with a specific blood concentration, and patients should be observed when given in a generic form, he told The Washington Post.

But considering the stringent regulations to which these drugs are subjected before they are permitted to compete on the market, it appears that Canadians don't have much to be concerned about when using generic edications. As noted by HuffPost Canada blogger Kapil Khatter, many patients are being given inaccurate information about the drugs that is only informed by — what else? — money:

Brand name drug companies have a lot to gain from dispensing distrust for generic medications and a lot to lose from patients, governments and insurance companies insisting on reasonable discounts once the drugs are off patent.

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  • #5 Stimulants

    While stimulants such as <a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart" target="_hplink">Ritalin and Adderall</a> are highly addictive, abuse among older people is not as widespread as it with young adults. However, illicit stimulants like cocaine are more common. In 2008, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/DAWN015/IllicitAbuse.htm" target="_hplink">63 percent of 118,495 emergency room visits</a> made by those 50 and older involved cocaine. The number of older cocaine users likely increased in the past few years since more than 550,000 adults aged 50 and older <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">reported cocaine use</a>, according to a 2011 report. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexdoddphotography/3196151008/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Alex Dodd)

  • #4 Antidepressants

    While the names are varied -- <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/what-medications-are-used-to-treat-depression.shtml" target="_hplink">Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro</a>, among others -- the effects are similar. Used primarily to treat depression and mood disorders, antidepressants have a slight potential for abuse and addiction. According to a 2010 report from The Drug Abuse Warning Network, antidepressants contributed to <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">8.6 percent of emergency room visits</a> by adults 50 and older.

  • #3 Sedatives

    Most often used to treat anxiety and insomnia, <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/List-of-Sedatives.aspx" target="_hplink">sedatives like Valium and Xanax</a> may become addictive <a href="http://nihseniorhealth.gov/drugabuse/improperuse/01.html" target="_hplink">if taken incorrectly, or used too often</a>. The Drug Abuse Warning Network identified sedatives, or depressants, as the pharmaceutical involved in <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">31.8 percent of emergency room visits by older adults</a>. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deanslife/1359287762/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Dean812)

  • #2 Pain Relievers

    Painkillers like Oxycodone, Vicodin and Morphine have a high potential for abuse. According to a Drug Abuse Warning Network report, <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">pain relievers were the type of pharmaceutical</a> most often involved in emergency room visits for post-50s, encompassing 43.5 percent of senior ER visits. The vast majority of painkiller-related ER visits -- 33.9 percent -- involved high-level narcotics, rather than over-the-counter pain relievers.

  • #1 Medical Marijuana

    While many people have medical prescriptions for marijuana use, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">3 million adults aged 50 and older</a> have illegally used the drug within the past year, according to a 2011 report from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a branch of the U.S. Government's Department of Health and Human Services. Out of 4.8 million older adults who used illicit drugs, marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription medicines among the 50 to 59 age range (though the opposite was true for those 60 and older). Marijuana is also far more popular among men than women aged 50 and older.