Professor explores generic drug effectiveness

May 27, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—It's likely if you're sick, your doctor is more inclined to prescribe a brand name drug in place of its generic equivalent. Or maybe you would rather pick up some Advil for that headache, instead of the less expensive pharmacy brand of ibuprofen.

While most patients don't mind paying a premium for brand-name drugs, their generic equivalents could work just as well. The problem is, more research needs to be done in order to determine which generics are on par with brand name drugs, said Dr. Robert Hegele, who teaches Medicine and Biochemistry at Western.

"Doctors and patients tend to think generics work differently. In terms of physicians, there is a feeling that generics are generally OK. But some do believe generics don't seem to work as well," he said.

While this may be true, Hegele said, some generic brands work just as well as their brand-name equivalents and prescribing them could decrease the cost, and increase the provision, of health care.

"With the pressure our health care is under, (prescribing generic brand drugs) is one way to make the best treatments available to the greatest number of patients, because of the reduced cost of drugs," he explained.

Hegele published a paper he co-authored in the April 2013 issue of the , examining the therapeutic benefits of Lipitor – a and one of the most widely prescribed medications in Canada – alongside its generic equivalent.

Titled Clinical Equivalence of Proprietary and Generic in Lipid Clinic Patients, the paper covers a study that looked at a large group of patients who took both Lipitor and generic atorvastatin over a prolonged period of time, ultimately showing no significant changes in the efficacy, or patient management when taking the generic.

"In Ontario, when a physician prescribes atorvastatin in its generic name, the patient might come back three to six months later, and their cholesterol is up. The physician will say, 'It's that darn generic,' but it could be other things. The patient could have changed their diet, gained weight or not have taken the medication as prescribed," Hegele explained.

He and his team looked at a large group of patients who needed to be on Lipitor, switching them to generic atorvastatin and monitoring effects and cholesterol levels.

"After six months, and in some cases a year or more, there was no difference in the efficacy of the drug. To us, it provided reassurance, and comfort to physicians and patients, to switch to a generic," he said.

Looking at the findings objectively, Hegele said generic atorvastatin, on average, works just as well as Lipitor, and their large-scale study is sufficient evidence of that.

"When generic companies do this (type of study), they're only required to do so with a small group of patients, for a short period of time. But there is a large number of patients in the real world who need the medication," he explained.

Still, it's important to note his team only looked at proprietary and generic atorvastatin, Hegele continued.

"We can't comment on generic blood pressure medication, or for diabetes, or the birth control pill. We didn't look at that and in fact, there may be differences. But studies may well find the generic is not as good, or it could be better."

And that's where Hegele thinks improvement is needed in order to provide effective, feasible care to as many as possible and save in the health care industry.

"I really think more studies of this type need to be done. We need real world assessment."

Explore further: First generic version of cancer drug Doxil approved

More information: … 2%2900271-1/abstract

Related Stories

First generic version of cancer drug Doxil approved

February 4, 2013
(HealthDay)—The first generic version of the cancer drug Doxil (doxorubicin hydrochloride liposome injection) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which says the action should help relieve shortages ...

High court weighs drug companies' generics policy

March 25, 2013
(AP)—The Supreme Court is struggling with whether it should stop pharmaceutical corporations from paying generic drug competitors to delay releasing their cheaper versions of brand-name drugs.

Minorities more likely to view generic drugs as inferior, study finds

October 24, 2012
Negative perceptions about generic drugs are more widespread among ethnic minorities than among whites, finds a new study in Ethnicity & Disease. Greater use of generic drugs, say the authors, could significantly reduce two ...

US approves India's Ranbaxy to make generic Lipitor

December 1, 2011
Indian pharmaceutical giant Ranbaxy won US regulatory approval to make the first generic version of cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor, a Pfizer product whose patent expired Wednesday.

Americans turn to generic medications in 2010: report

April 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In a new report released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the results show that over 78% of the almost four billion prescriptions written in the U.S. in 2010 were for generic drugs. The ...

Differences in generic pill characteristics may lead to interruptions in essential medication use

December 31, 2012
Generic medications currently account for over 70 percent of prescriptions dispensed. However, while generic drugs are clinically bioequivalent to the brand-name version, they often differ in their physical characteristics, ...

Recommended for you

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

August 21, 2017
That statin you've been taking to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke may one day pull double duty, providing protection against a whole host of infectious diseases, including typhoid fever, chlamydia, and malaria.

Data revealed under FOI shows benefits of multiple sclerosis drug currently blocked by regulators

August 17, 2017
A drug that is blocked by the EU regulatory system has now been found to improve the quality of life of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Opioids overused in migraine treatment, regardless of race, study finds

August 17, 2017
African-Americans are more likely to experience debilitating migraine headaches than whites, but a new study probing the issue found no evidence of racial disparities in treatment practices.

Finding better ways to reduce serious drug side effects

August 14, 2017
Many of the medicines we depend on to treat disease—and even to save our lives—pose potentially serious risks along with their benefits. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that about ...

Ultrasound-triggered liposomes for on-demand, local anesthesia

August 10, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have found a new way to non-invasively relieve pain at local sites in the body; such systems could one day improve pain management by replacing addictive opioids and short-lasting ...

Independent pharmacies and online coupons help patients save money on drugs

August 8, 2017
Uninsured patients or those with limited prescription drug coverage can save significant money by buying their drugs at independent pharmacies instead of big box, grocery or chain drug stores and by using discount coupons, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.