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Huwag Mahihiyang Magtanong: The Difference Between Branded And Generic Medicines

Amidst the sudden rise of COVID-19 cases due to the more transmissible Omicron variant, the country is experiencing a shortage of paracetamol and other flu medications. Photos of long queues outside drug stores circulated on social media, which only fueled more panic buying by consumers.

To address the issue, the Department of Health (DOH) assured the public that there is no shortage. In a statement, DOH said that they have already made efforts to bring back stocks of paracetamol and flu medications in the market. The government also urged the public to resort to other generic brands.

The Misconception on Generic Brands

Many Filipinos say that getting sick in the Philippines is only for the rich and privileged. In a way, this may be true. According to a report published by Mercer Marsh Benefits in 2019, the Philippines was the second most expensive country in Southeast Asia when it comes to medical expenses. The same report also stated that the price of medicine in the country increased to 13.9% in 2019.

Presently, there are more affordable alternatives in the market — generic medicines. But some Filipinos equate a cheaper price tag with reduced efficacy. According to a  pharmacist, this is not the case.

Alyza Montero, a registered community pharmacist, and an online educational content creator said that in terms of actions, dosage, strength, effectivity, and even toxicity, branded and generic drugs are similar and their only difference is the appearance. Montero also emphasized that the choice of medicine intake is also dependent on the budget of the consumer.

“Kaya for me as (a) pharmacist, wala yan sa branded or generic…Nasa budget yan ng customer kung ano yung kaya niyang bilhin kasi nga tulad ng sabi ko kanina, branded or generic, kung maayos nating tinetake ito, tatalab ito sa katawan natin. So wala, wala kaming preferred something branded medicine para sa isang patient, wala, wala. Lahat ng gamot branded, generic, okay. Basta approved ng FDA.”

Montero also assured the consumers that there is enough supply of generic paracetamol and other types of flu medicine in the market. The branded medicines are the ones experiencing a temporary shortage.

Why are Branded Drugs more expensive?

According to a Makati Medical Center article, brand-name drugs are often considered as “pioneer drugs” or the first type of drug in the market. The brand will then have a patent that usually lasts for 20 years. Once the patent expires, other drug companies can now manufacture and create their “generic version” of the drug. The strength and effectiveness of generic drugs are considered the same as the branded drugs because they also undergo the approval process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being distributed in the market.

Since branded drugs are first in the study of a particular drug, they have allotted a sizable budget for its development. Lots of clinical tests were conducted to assess the efficacy and safety of the medicine. Also, pharmaceutical companies have to pay for patent rights.  On the other hand, drug companies that sell generic medicines will only handle the manufacturing cost so they can offer cheaper prices to their consumers.

How to Detect Fake Meds?

One alarming downside of people’s panic buying and their preference for branded medicines is that a lot of fake and bogus medicines have been circulating in the market lately. The government advised the public to stay vigilant and buy medicines only from trusted drug stores and pharmacies.

Dr. Peter Delizo, a General Physician, reminded consumers that it is important to always check and perform the following procedures to ensure the authenticity of the medicines that we buy:

  1. Examine the packaging
  2. Check the seal
  3. Do a visual inspection and make sure that the important numbers are visible (Lot number, batch number, expiration date).

In case of allergies and adverse reactions from the intake of fake medicines, Dr. Delizo advised to immediately bring the patient to the nearest hospital for antidotes.

Which medicine to choose?

Ultimately, the choice still belongs to the consumer. But it is important to keep in mind that both branded and generic medicines are safe and effective. The most important thing is to not self-medicate.

If budget is a consideration, experts say that it does not matter whether the medicine is expensive or not, branded or generic. What matters is to follow the doctor’s prescription for the drug to be effective.

Watch this episode of Panahon TV Reports to know more about Branded and Generic Medicine from the experts: