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Are Generic Drugs Less Effective? Generic Drug Myths

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Nov 20, 2020

Are Generic Drugs Less Effective? Generic Drug Myths

A question that many people ask is, “are generic drugs less effective than branded drugs?”. TV commercials of popular, branded drugs often claim to be better than generic versions of the same medicine. Endorsements from celebrities may boost sales, but is there any truth to these claims?

This article will tackle some of the common myths surrounding generic vs. branded drugs here in the Philippines and provide facts for each.

are generic drugs less effective

Myth #1: Branded drugs have better ingredients.

The truth is, well-established companies can afford to do extensive research on new drugs. At the same time, they can purchase materials in larger bulks which cuts down costs in the long run. In addition, factories producing raw materials may be more eager to be be associated with branded drugs.

However, this does not mean generic drugs are low quality. Generics undergo testing and quality assurance before they can be made and sold. The FDA also requires the ingredients and drugs to be approved and registered.

Myth #2: Generic drugs are fake versions of branded drugs.

This is a very common misconception. In normal conversation, generic can have an almost negative connotation. If someone calls your face “generic”, you would likely be offended.

In reality, generic drugs refer to medicines with the same active ingredients as a branded drug.

Because of this, generic drugs are in no way less effective than branded drugs.

They are considered equal in terms of action and targeted receptors or organs. It is easier to compare generic vs. branded drugs as you would with food products.

A generic or store brand of bottled drinking water is the same as the imported ones. Some differences may lie in the appearance or added minerals, but in the end these both contain water.

The Truth about “Counterfeit’ Drugs

The correct term for a fake drug is “counterfeit”. Medicines that are not approved by the FDA are counterfeit. This includes imported drugs that are approved in another country, but are not approved in the Philippines. 

Counterfeit drugs may also use different ratios of active ingredients or completely different ingredients but still claim to be the same as either an established generic or branded drug.

A way to check for counterfeit drugs or products is to inspect the packaging. The tablets or capsules may look different from the usual.

Check on the FDA website for announcements regarding unauthorized products and counterfeits. You may also ask your local pharmacist to verify if a suspicious medication is real or not.

Myth #3: Generic drugs are not as good that is why they are cheaper.

As mentioned, branded drugs have a premium price tag because the drug companies use more funding for research that can take decades. The work that these companies do is important, but that does not mean generic drugs are less effective.

After all the hard work put in to create a safe and effective drug, the drug companies expect to sell enough to cover the costs and then some.

In order to do this, they build up their brand name and image. In fact, many branded drugs are household names. Actors and athletes often appear in commercials and ads promoting the use of these medicines– and it works!

Generic drug manufacturers create the medicines using the same formulation as the innovator brand. Therefore, there is no more guesswork or research involved. Branded drug packaging should include the generic name. In a way, generic drugs get free advertisement because of this.

In the end, generic drugs are not less effective than branded drugs. You get the same medication at a more affordable price.

Myth #4: Branded drugs work faster than generic drugs.

Because the branded drug companies conduct more research than generic manufacturers, they continuously try to innovate to set themselves apart from the competition.

Branded drugs may have the same active ingredient as a generic drug, but come in a fast-release capsule or once-a-day formulation.

This is where branded drugs have an edge versus generic drugs without modified-releases. A fast-release capsule work faster than a normal capsule no matter what. It is important to remember that faster does not always mean better.

Myth #5: My doctor prescribed a branded drug, that means I have to get it.

are generic drugs less effective

Unfortunately, this occasionally happens because of promotions of certain brands through medical representatives. Violative prescriptions do not have generic names and cannot be filled. The generic name should also come before the brand.

Under the Republic Act no. 6675, known as the Generic Drug Act of 1988,

“All medical, dental and veterinary practitioners, including private practitioners, shall write prescriptions using the generic name. The brand name may be included if so desired”.

Doctors who prescribe brand names without the generic name are liable to reprimand and fines. A pharmacist should not fill a prescription without the generic name. If your doctor did not write the generic name, kindly remind them to do so.

The purpose of promoting generic drug use is to make health more accessible for all. Generics have the same standards and safety requirements as branded drugs. However, if you still prefer a brand there is nothing wrong with that.

Learn more about drugs and supplements, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Nov 20, 2020

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