What should patients know about generic medicines?

by Bhushan

Posted on March 12, 2020 at 12:00 AM

In the ongoing struggle to control rapidly increasing health care costs, moving from brand name to generic drugs will help patients reduce their costs significantly. Generics are an important medical alternative to generic drugs that can provide a 30 percent to 80 percent cost-benefit for both consumers and health system payers, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association

A review of an IMS Health survey on prescription drug use in the United States in late July 2010 showed that generic versions of brand-name medications have saved the American health care system over the past decade by more than $824 billion, including $139.6 billion in 2009 alone.

Quality check for Generics

As most pharmacists are aware, generic drug effectiveness is identified by manufacturer-led bioequivalence studies. The FDA tests the bioavailability of the active ingredients of medication in the bloodstream to guarantee that the product fits the profile of the company

It is crucial for patients to differentiate between side effects of treatment and a lack of therapeutic effect when determining the generic drug efficacy. Many drugs have side effects — some minor inconveniences, some big considerations— that could rule out their use. Patients should be made aware of known side effects by a doctor, pharmacist, or the package and website material from the manufacturer before going on a drug.

Pharmacists and consumers

For each medication, pharmacists maintain package outserts that list active and inactive ingredients. Each form can in some patients cause reactions. Outserts also provide contraindications, possible adverse effects, Web site URL for the manufacturer, and other contact information. The company's website will include a list of drugs and detailed information about every medicine it sells.


Pharmacists can provide doctors with important information about drug allergens which can cause a fatal reaction in extreme cases. Potential allergens are glutens, caffeine, shellfish, cornstarch, lactose, and colorings. Even if a patient is highly sensitive, trace amounts of these compounds (e.g. one-millionth of a percent of alcohol wash) can be a concern.

Now, questions about the gluten and lactose content are the most frequent allergen inquiries. Patients with gluten allergies may have celiac disease, or celiac sprue, a digestive tract condition that interferes with digestion and nutrient absorption from food

On the other hand, lactose is a growing excipient in pharmaceuticals. Intolerance to lactose can manifest as an allergic reaction to certain drugs. However, certain drugs can cause normal side effects of lactose intolerance. Once a lactose ingredient has been detected by the pharmacist in the prescribed drug, the patient's doctor should be contacted to decide whether the reaction is a lactose allergy or an adverse reaction to the product itself.

Pharmacists should guide patients to information services identifying potential drug allergens and allowing them to make informed decisions about whether to take the drug or seek an alternative. Patients may call the company for more information about potential allergens, and ask to speak with a Product or Regulatory official.

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