Generic Medicines

Generic Medicines

Every medicine (drug) has an approved generic name. Often, it will also have one or more brand (trade) names. This can sometimes lead to confusion.

What are generic and brand names?

  • Generic name. Each medicine (drug) has an approved name called the generic name.  
  • Brand name. Many medicines also have one or more brand names. This is chosen by the company that makes it. Several companies may make the same generic medicine, each with their own brand name. The name is often chosen to be memorable for advertising, or to be easier to say or spell than some long generic name!
  • Example:paracetamol is a generic name. There are several companies that make this with brand names such as Panadol®, Calpol®.

The brand name is usually written most clearly on any packaging. However, you will always see the generic name written somewhere on the packet (often in small print). Some medicines only have the generic name on the packet.

The colour, size, shape, etc, of brands of the same medicine may vary depending on which company makes it. Do not be alarmed if your regular medicine seems to have changed colour or shape. It may be that the pharmacist is getting it from a different company, or the doctor has written the prescription in a generic way rather than using a brand name. However, the medicine will be the same if the generic name is the same as before.

Generic prescribing

Doctors are encouraged to prescribe by using the generic name. Using the generic name means possible confusion or mistakes are reduced. Secondly, generic medicines are often cheaper for the HSE and for you. Even for medicines that you can buy, such as paracetamol, there is often a big price difference between brands.

Why are generic medicines cheaper?

Generic medicines usually cost less because the manufacturers do not need to invest money in research, development and marketing as they would if they were producing an original product from scratch.

What about quality of medicines

In Ireland, there are strict quality controls before a product licence is granted for brand named or generic versions of medicines. This means that a generic or brand name version of the same medicine will work the same, and be equally as safe.

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