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.
Let us know what you think of the brand name vs. generic drugs question in the comments below!