What is the Difference Between Generic and Brand Name Drugs for Pharmaceutical Careers?

pharmaceutical careersIf you’re considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry, you’ve probably already heard about generic and brand name drugs. While these are fairly well known terms, there is a lot of confusion about what they mean. In fact, you may think that generic and brand name drugs are exactly the same except in name and packaging, but that’s not quite true.

Although you can save money more often than not by buying generic drugs as opposed to brand name ones, the two have more subtle differences between them than you might think. Here are some key differences between generic and brand name drugs for those studying for a career in pharmaceuticals.

One Major Difference Between the Two is How Much They Cost to Make

A significant point worth mentioning between the two is that the manufacturer of the brand name drug has to pay for more than its production. In fact, they also have to pay for the research and development of many medications that don’t make it past the trial phase. A generic drug, meanwhile, doesn’t require the same amount of research or testing to prove its safety. As a result, a generic drug manufacturer doesn’t have to spend nearly as much on clinical testing compared to brand name manufacturers.

Those currently completing their pharmaceutical training should know that the higher costs of brand name drugs are due in part to the fact that clinical testing is expensive, the costs of which are partially passed on to the consumer. Furthermore, because generic versions of a drug can be sold by several different companies at the same time, such competition often means the price of generic drugs is cut even further.

Person looking into a microscope
Brand name drugs are costlier than generic ones in part because of clinical trials

The Contents of Generic Drugs Have Similarities to Brand Name Ones, But Also Differences

Generic drugs have to contain about the same amount and concentration of active ingredients as their brand name counterparts do. If there’s a significant difference in active ingredients between a generic drug and its brand name counterpart, then that difference could potentially present a health risk to patients. Even if one generic drug is three or four per cent higher or lower than a brand name one, the difference between the two is unlikely to be significant. However, those with pharmaceutical careers should know that generic drugs aren’t required to have the same inactive ingredients found in brand name drugs. Inactive ingredients have no bearing on the drug’s therapeutic purposes, such as artificial flavours that help make taking drugs easier for some people. While generic and brand name drugs may have similarities to one another, they aren’t identical.

Person looking at two boxes of medication
It’s often not advised to go back and forth between generic and brand-name drugs

Those in Pharmaceutical Careers Should Know the Risks of Switching Between Generics and Brand-Names

Often switching between a brand name drug and its generic version is completely safe. However, there are cases where this may not be a good idea. For example, with NTI (Narrow Therapeutic Index) drugs or psychotropic drugs like antidepressants it is often best to stick with just one version. Sometimes moving from a brand name version of a drug to a generic one can have adverse effects on the patient, and may contribute to that patient relapsing. Differences between the drugs’ inactive ingredients can even cause undesirable side effects for patients or may affect the drug’s activity within the body. Either way, consumers are advised to consult with doctors about the pros and cons of switching between generic and brand name drugs.

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