Generic Medicines – what you need to know

Interested in learning more about generic medicines? We’ve gathered together the most commonly asked questions about the world of generics here. Your doctor or pharmacist can also help you with queries and advice.

What are generic medicines?

A generic medicine is an alternative option to original brand, often at a cost-effective price. It contains the same active ingredient in the same strength as its original brand equivalent and works in the same way in the body.

How are generic medicines different to original brand?

When a pharmaceutical company launches a new medicine, they invest a significant amount of resource into developing and marketing the product. Normally, they also apply for a patent for their product, which means that they are the only pharmaceutical company who can sell that product for a set period of time.

Once the patent runs out, other companies are able to produce their own version of the product. Because they have not had to make the same initial investment as the original brand, they are able to develop a more cost-effective version of the product.

But cheaper means lower quality, right?

Not at all. Generic medicines contain the same active ingredients in the same strengths as original brand and work in the same way in the body. You can rest assured that when you take a Generic Health medicine, you are consuming a product that meets the same strict manufacturing, quality and safety standards also required for the original brands.

Why should I choose a generic medicine?

Often, you will save money with a generic medicine. Over-the-counter generic medicines tend to be cheaper than the original brand version, meaning the customer gets the savings directly.

With prescription medicines, the Government pays a subsidy for the medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS), and this subsidy is the same amount for an original brand and a generic medicine. The patient will often have to make a co-payment to this subsidy.

More broadly, using generic medicines can benefit the Australian health system overall. The cheaper costs of the products mean the Government is able to take the savings and reinvest them back into the healthcare system, and into the future of Australians’ health and wellbeing.

But my doctor has prescribed an original brand, can I still take a generic alternative?

Your doctor will usually state on your prescription if they want you to take a specific brand of medicine or if they do not want it substituted with a generic version. If they don’t make that clarification, your pharmacist may consider dispensing you a generic version. If you are uncertain about this, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you have a known sensitivity to certain substances or wish to avoid specific substances (for example, lactose or gluten).