Higher costs do not necessarily mean better quality.
- a lower cost alternative
ARE THEY THE SAME?
Yes, Generic medicines are evaluated by Health Canada to confirm that they are bioequivalent to their respective brands, that is, they are equal in terms of safety, the way they function in the body, and have the same level of high quality similar to their brand-name counterparts.
generics cost an average of
less than brand-name drugs
Generic drugs accounted for 57% of all
Generics are every bit as safe and effective
as the brand-name drug
LEARN ABOUT GENERICS, INTRODUCTION TO GENERICS
An introduction to the basic concepts of generic drugs and how it relates to Canada, including its definition, composition, classification and approval.
Browse our most frequently asked question (FAQs) related to generics drugs. If you can't find what you need, please get in touch with us by filling the contact from below.
Are all brand-name drugs available in a generic form?
No. Approved brand-name drugs may have patent protection for up to 20 years per patent that prevents generic competition until after expiry or successful legal challenge. Further, some approved brand-name drugs are eligible for data protection of the underlying clinical safety and efficacy data, which can further delay generic development for up to 8 years.
In time, as patent and data protection expires and/or is challenged, more generic versions of several top-selling brand-name drugs are expected to become available, giving you access to even more affordable medicines.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a generic version of your brand-name prescription is available.
Why does a generic drug look different from the brand-name drug?
A generic drug may or may not match the size, shape and colour of its brand-name counterpart. Sometimes there will be slight differences. The important thing is that the generic drug must have the same active ingredient(s) and be 'bioequivalent', meaning that it works the same way in your body as its brand-name counterpart. The differences in appearance do not affect the generic drug's safety or effectiveness.
Why are the names of brand-name drugs different from the names of generic drugs?
Drug products often have many different names. The chemical name describes the atomic or molecular structure of the drug. The generic name is the term given to the active ingredient in the medicine, which is decided by an expert committee and is understood internationally. The brand name is selected by the manufacturer or the distributor of the drug. The name is often chosen in such a way that it is easier to spell or say the product name or to aid in promoting the drug.
How much will I save by taking a generic medication?
In Canada, generic drugs cost an average of 60% less than their brand-name counterparts. As of April 2018, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) and the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA) have increased the discount on generics, which has resulted in some of the most commonly prescribed drugs being sold at an overall discount of up to 90% of the cost of the brand-name drug. There are a number of factors that may contribute to the cost of a medication, including the pharmacy you go to or your insurance coverage. It is best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to learn about the cost savings associated with the choice of an equivalent generic.
Why do generic drugs cost less than brand-name drugs?
A brand-name drug company spends a number of years to study the new drug and obtain a patent before it is approved for sale in Canada. The patent allows the company to earn back the money it has spent on research. Following patent expiry, other companies are allowed to make generic versions of the drug. As the generic drug companies don't have to spend as much money on research and development of a new chemical entity, preclinical and clinical testing, approval processes, and promotion and advertising, the cost is lower than their brand-name counterparts. There may also be competition amongst generic drug companies, contributing to their lower price.
How can I find out the name of the company that manufactures and/or distributes my generic medication?
You may be able to determine the company that manufactures your generic medication by looking at the label on your prescription drug, reading the medication package insert or by asking your pharmacist.
How do I read the label on my prescription drug package?
When using any medication, it is important to carefully read the prescription drug label. Here's a color-coded guide to help you identify certain information contained on a typical drug label that a pharmacy puts on your medication. Please note that the information provided on the drug label may differ depending on the pharmacy you go to or the province where you reside. Consult your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about the label on your prescription drug package.
Will my dosing schedule change if I'm prescribed a generic drug?
No, your dosing schedule will not change for generic medicines. Generic drug manufacturers are required to provide data that proves their drug is bioequivalent to their brand-name counterparts prior to approval. In the bioequivalent testing, brand-name drug and the generic drug are administered to healthy human volunteers at the same dose, following a similar dosing schedule. If the generic drug delivers the same amount of medicinal ingredient in the blood, at the same rate as the brand-name drug, the generic versions receive marketing approval. Based on these bioequivalent tests the generics are approved for use with the same dosing schedule as their brand-name counterparts.
Why doesn't my physician automatically prescribe me a generic?
All the medications do not have a generic version available in the market, mainly because the brand-name drugs may be protected by a valid patent and hence benefitting from its market exclusivity. It is only upon expiry of their patents can generics be approved for use. Some physicians may not be aware of the recently approved generics for the specific disease condition. Further more, the prescribing pattern of each physician ls based on their personal belief or experience with certain medications. Finally, medical histories (including allergies to certain excipients or past experience with generics for that patient) and insurance-related issues may influence the physician's decision for not prescribing a generic.
Are there any special circumstances to be considered before switching to a generic?
Some people may be allergic to an inactive Ingredient or excipients, such as lactose, gluten, sulphites or tartrazine used in the generic drug. If you are allergic to such ingredients, check with your pharmacist or check the Health Canada Product Database to retrieve/view Product Monographs: https://health-products.canada.ca/dpd-bdpp/index-eng.jsp before switching from a brand-name drug to its generic form of the drug. Also, for certain drugs termed as critical-dose drugs or narrow therapeutic index (NTI) drugs, a small difference in dose or concentration can lead to serious adverse effects or therapeutic failures. Health Canada sets different standards and strict bioequivalent requirements, and testing for these drugs. Before switching to generics for NTls, please consult your physician and confirm whether generic substitution can be made based on your medical history to avoid untoward effects. In addition, as the generic competition may be very limited for these drugs, the cost may be comparable or even higher than their brand-name counterparts. Hence, before switching to generic drugs, please check with your pharmacist to know the difference of cost between the 2 drugs.
If the generic I have been prescribed gives me an unwanted reaction, how do I report it?
You can report drug-related adverse reactions (including adverse reactions due to generic drugs, brand-name drugs, natural health products, biologics etc.) to your medical professional, hospital or the company that developed the product. You can report any suspected adverse reactions associated with the use of health products to the Canada Vigilance Program by one of the following 3 ways:
Report online at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medeffect-canada.html
Call toll-free at 1-866-234-2345
Complete a Canada Vigilance Reporting Form and:
- Fax toll-free to1-866-678-6789, or
- Mail to: Canada Vigilance Program
Postal Locator 1908C
Ottawa, ON KlA OK9
What if I prefer the brand-name drug over the generic drug?
Generic medicines are designed to work the same way in the body as the original brand-name drug and are priced less than brand-name drugs. However, if you prefer using a brand-name drug due to an increase in side effects with the generic version from past experience, please let your physician know about your preference. Your physician will then mention 'DO NOT SUBSTITUTE' on the prescription. Also, if you are enrolled in a public or private medication insurance plan, based on the coverage of the plan, you may have to pay out-of-pocket costs for the brand-name drug.
Will my current insurance plan cover the use of a generic drug?
Each insurance plan has a formulary which lists the drugs covered by the plan and specifies at what level they are covered. When you enrol in an insurance plan, you should receive its formulary as a booklet and/or a website link. You can also check with your insurer if the generic drug is covered by your insurance plan.
Where can I find more information regarding generics in Canada?
- Product monographs provide a valuable source of Health Canada-approved information about generic and brand-name drugs.
- You can find the complete product monograph for a specific drug by searching Health Canada's Drug Product Database at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/drug-products/drug-product-database.html.
- The consumer information for some drugs can be found in the Health Canada's Drugs and Health Products Register https://hpr-rps.hres.ca/
- Health Canada also publishes many databases about drug products. For more information on the different databases and links to each of them, visit the Drug Products web page https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/drug-products.html
- Myths and Facts about Generics
- Fast facts about generics
- How to read my prescription drug label