For a long time there has been a perception that generic drugs are inferior to the brand name drugs. This myth i believe has been perpetuated by those who would like to make a killing of sick Kenyans given the fact that brand name drugs tend to be more expensive than generics. In this article i will try to explain the difference between brand name and generic drugs and hopefully burst the myth.

The difference between a brand name and a generic brand lies doesn’t lie in the chemistry or the effectiveness of the drug, but who discovered the drug and who owns the patent to it. Coming up with a new drug is very resource intensive. It can take a pharmaceutical up to 10 years and billions of dollars due to the number of clinical trials and research that goes into the process.

Once the drug has been approved by relevant bodies, the pharma that came up with the drug secures a patent on the formula that usually lasts about 20 years. This helps them get a profitable return on their investment. During the patent period, no other pharma can manufacture or distribute the drug.

Once the patent period expires, other pharmas can now get access to the formula and begin manufacturing the equivalent of the original which is called a generic. However, for the generic drugs to be approved for use, they must first undergo a series of tests to determine that they will work in the exact same way as the brand name drug. The generic drug will have the same active ingredients, in the same concentration as the brand name and will only differ in terms of colour or smell or inactive ingredients.

Brand name drugs tend to be more expensive than generic ones because the cost that went into developing the drug is passed on to the consumer. The generic ones just copy the formula and distribute so they tend to be cheaper but the drug is actually the same.

However, due to the for profit nature of private hospitals, they tend to prescribe the more expensive brand name drugs. If you find yourself in such a situation, always ask the doctor whether they can prescribe a generic drug with the same effect and of course a lower price range. In this economy, every shilling saved makes a big difference.