Five Questions about Generic Drugs

Despite many myths about their effectiveness and safety, generic drugs have been proven to be just as valid as brand-name drugs. Find out more in this article.
Five Questions about Generic Drugs

Last update: 21 May, 2021

Although we’ll answer more questions about generic drugs throughout the following article, we should start by knowing exactly what they are.

The definition of a generic drug is: “Any drug that has the same qualitative and quantitative composition of active ingredients and the same pharmaceutical form as an original or reference drug”.

Background on Generic Drugs

Lots of people have doubts and questions about this type of medication
Many people have doubts about generic drugs. However, they’re safe and of high quality.

If something is generic, it will often be labeled a pharmaceutical equivalent. That way, you know it’s a generic drug.

However, despite their popularity, there’s still a lot of controversy around generic drugs. Additionally, there are lots of myths around them, which we’ll explain later.

The objective of these drugs is to save costs while maintaining the efficacy and safety of brand-name drugs.

In this article, we’ll answer five frequently asked questions about generic drugs:

  • What’s the difference between a generic and a brand-name drug?
  • Do generic drugs have the same quality as brand-name drugs?
  • Are generic drugs really cheaper?
  • What are their advantages?
  • Is it true that generic drugs contain up to 20% less active substances?

1. Whats’s the Difference Between a Generic and Brand-Name Drug?

The main difference between generic drugs and brand-name ones is what they look like. However, this doesn’t mean that they work significantly lessas many people may think.

Another difference you’ll notice is the name of the medicine. Generic medicine will be named based on its active ingredient. An example of this is paracetamol.

In pharmacies, you can find paracetamol, which is the generic version. On the other hand, you can also find Gelocatil, which is the brand name of a medicine that contains paracetamol as an active ingredient.

Generic drugs have the same main ingredients as the name-brands.
The chemical formula of paracetamol, one of the most widely used generics.

However, generic medications can’t go on the market until the patent for the original drug expires.

In addition, they need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

2. Do Generic Drugs Have the Same Quality as Brand-Name Drugs?

Yes, the quality is the same. The main differences are the ones that we’ve already mentioned, and they have nothing to do with drugs’ efficacy.

Generic drugs are guaranteed to have the same quality, as both generic and brand-name medications have to go through the same processesAdditionally, they both have to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Maybe you’re interested: Your Guide to Anti-Anxiety Medications

3. Are Generic Drugs Really Cheaper?

Although there isn’t a single company or group that sets prices for generic medications, the prices are typically considerably lower than the brand-name alternative.

Additionally, you don’t need to pay a huge amount for research costs. However, as you already know, just because they’re cheaper doesn’t mean that their quality is lower.

4. What Are Their Advantages?

A pharmacist filling a man's prescription.
Generic drugs are less expensive for the industry to sell to the public.

Based on the previous question, the main advantage is that they are much cheaper than brand-name medications. In fact, you can even save up to 60% compared to the price of the original.

The price difference is due to the fact that generics don’t have an impact on the investments made by each pharmaceutical company to discover a new drug.

5. Is It True that Generic Drugs Contain Up To 20% Less Active Substances?

No, this is definitely not true. There’s no variability whatsoever in the efficacy of the medication, or in the actual amount of the active ingredient. However, there may be 20% variability in how your body absorbs it.

That said, this variation occurs with any medication, whether generic or not. This is because when researchers do bio-availability studies, they always must admit that they vary by 20%Therefore, this variability can happen with any medication.

This means that, even though the total amount of active ingredients is exactly the same, the absorption may vary. Additionally, that’s what all studies take into account before selling generic drugs on the market.

It might interest you...
6 Ways to Control Stress and Anxiety without Drugs
Step To HealthRead it in Step To Health
6 Ways to Control Stress and Anxiety without Drugs

Stress affects each of us physically and emotionally. And, we all carry our stress in different ways. But, before you reach for a prescription, the...



  • Shrank, W. H., Liberman, J. N., Fischer, M. A., Girdish, C., Brennan, T. A., & Choudhry, N. K. (2011). Physician perceptions about generic drugs. Annals of Pharmacotherapy. https://doi.org/10.1345/aph.1P389
  • Anand, O., Yu, L. X., Conner, D. P., & Davit, B. M. (2011). Dissolution Testing for Generic Drugs: An FDA Perspective. The AAPS Journal. https://doi.org/10.1208/s12248-011-9272-y
  • Frank, R. G., & Salkever, D. S. (1997). Generic entry and the pricing of pharmaceuticals. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy. https://doi.org/10.1162/105864097567039
  • Borgherini, G. (2003). The bioequivalence and therapeutic efficacy of generic versus brand-name psychoactive drugs. Clinical Therapeutics. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0149-2918(03)80157-1