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 medicines ?
Generic name. Each medicine (drug) has an approved name called the generic name. A group of medicines that have similar actions often have similar-sounding generic names. For example, penicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin and flucloxacillin are in one group of antibiotics.
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! For example, paracetamol is a generic name. There are several companies that make this with brand names such as Panadol®, Calpol®, etc.
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.
Some tablets or pills contain a combination of medicines. Combination products are often marketed and sold with a brand name. However, the individual ingredients (the individual medicines that are combined into the one tablet or pill) will all be listed in small print on the packet. For example, a popular painkiller has a brand name of Solpadeine®. This contains three generic medicines – paracetamol, codeine, and caffeine.
Doctors are encouraged to prescribe by using the generic name. This is because:
The generic name is the one doctors are trained to use. There are sometimes many brand names for one medicine. Possible confusion or mistakes are reduced if all doctors use the same names when talking about and prescribing medicines.
Generic medicines are often cheaper for the NHS. Even for medicines that you can buy, such as paracetamol, there is often a big price difference between brands.
Cheaper does not mean lower quality.
Generic manufacturers are able to sell their products for lower prices because they are not required to repeat the costly clinical trials of new drugs and generally do not pay for costly advertising, marketing, and promotion. In addition, multiple generic companies are often approved to market a single product; this creates competition in the market place, often resulting in lower prices.
FACT: When it comes to price, there is a big difference between generic and brand name drugs. On average, the cost of a generic drug is 80 to 85 percent lower than the brand name product.