Generic vs Brand Name Medication: Is There A Difference?

generic vs brand name medication

Generic and brand-name medications are often misunderstood, with many people assuming they are very different — with the former being inferior. However, contrary to popular belief, both drug types usually tend to be quite similar, having the same active ingredients and activation rates.

As such, understanding the comparison between generic vs. brand name medication will help older adults with their medication management, providing them with the knowledge they need to choose between both options.

At Seasons, residents can access a telemedicine system or an in-house doctor. Also, our pharmacy partner is available to discuss medications with residents, including clarifying the generic vs brand name medication differences.

This article discusses generic and brand medications and the difference between generic and brand drugs.

What are generic and brand-name drugs, and how do they differ?

Generic drugs

Generic brands for specific drugs usually offer the same product (acetaminophen, for example) as brand name alternatives and are comparatively less expensive.

A group of drugs that function similarly often have generic names that sound alike — for example, antibiotics like amoxicillin, ampicillin, flucloxacillin, etc., and you’ll find that generic drugs and brand-name drugs will often have the same name for their product on the label.

These drugs will functionally differ in the chemical makeup of the other ingredients that do not contain an active component to treat conditions or illnesses. Since these differences will not change how effective the drug is at doing its job, they are usually.

Brand-name drugs

Depending on the manufacturer’s decision, many medications are known explicitly by their brand names. The manufacturers can produce the same generic drug under various brand names.

Customers often default to using brand names for products, contributing to them becoming the de-facto brand associated with the product itself.

This extends to many products outside the drug industry. Tylenol is a typical example, but even brands like Kleenex have taken on the name of the products. Paracetamol, as well, is a generic term, but several firms manufacture this under brand names, such as Panadol, Calpol, and others.

Are generic drugs safe?

Yes, generic drugs are perfectly safe since, before being authorized, generic medications must pass the same rigorous evaluation and be approved per Health Canada’s bioequivalence standards.

From the generic drug definition, we can deduce that these drugs are chemically the same as branded name types — perhaps, except for a few inactive ingredients that may be left out of generic medicines.

Generic drugs undergo a thorough evaluation to ensure that they provide the same therapeutic effects as brand-name medications and that any alternative substances used in generic medicine are standard and safe.

Other features usually examined include the strength of the drug’s packaging, how long an unused dose will survive before it degrades, and the consistency and accuracy of the drug’s production. If the medication satisfies these safety standards, they’ll gain approval.

Why do brand-name medications cost more than generic ones?

In the case of new drugs, the inventing company will offer products exclusively for years at uncontested pricing through patents gained after approval from Health Canada. Generally speaking, pharmaceutical corporations may spend a lot of time and money to manufacture their product during this time. These manufacturers invest significantly in marketing, branding, and research & development (R&D), which drives up the cost of these medications.

When the original patents expire, several pharmaceutical firms may produce and sell generic versions of these medications — using the same active component(s) — leading to market competition and lower costs. But unlike brand-name medication manufacturers, generic drug manufacturers do not spend as much on investments in R&D, marketing, or branding. Additionally, one of the key ways to break into the market is to offer a lower price point, and many generic brands will use this to their advantage.

On the other hand, brand-name manufacturers will try to leverage the influence they’ve built, and when it comes to product marketing, the brand name carries a lot of weight. Many people continue to stick with brand-name medications, even if they’re more expensive since it’s simply easier to do so and it’s a brand they trust.

As a result, when looking for an anti-ageing supplement, you’re likely to find a lower price if it’s a generic medication than a famous brand-name product.

What are the differences?

Comparing generic vs brand name medication, let’s take a look at their differences:

1.    Appearance

Trade regulations prohibit manufacturers from replicating brand-name drugs in generic form in every aspect — although all medications must have the same active components for the same therapeutic benefits.

So, generic and brand-name drugs can be visually different. These differences are often from non-active components like dyes, fillers, and preservatives that influence the drug’s size, shape, and colour.

2.    Inactive ingredients

A significant difference between brand-name and generic medications is the inactive ingredients in each drug.

Since drug regulating agencies only pay attention to the active components in generic medications, there are usually some differences in their inactive ingredients. Hence, it is crucial to check the drug’s component list for ingredients that may negatively affect the user or consult your doctor for advice.

3.    Cheaper

As we’ve covered, marketing, production, and other factors can often lead to the cash price of  generic drugs being less expensive than brand-name medications.

4.    Different Manufacturers

A variety of companies and manufacturers can produce the same generic medication. Hence, the manufacturer your local pharmacy buys from will determine the type and quality of medication you receive.

Speaking with a pharmacist is the best way to find out more about a particular drug or supplement that best suits you.

Are brand-name medications preferable in some circumstances?

In most cases, there is no significant difference between brand-name and generic products. In situations where a generic version is unavailable, one can go for a brand-name drug and vice versa.

However, suppose a person’s body doesn’t respond well to a generic drug; in that case, if the symptoms worsen, or they experience an allergic reaction or harmful effect from an inactive component, they might consider using a brand-name medication.

Also, doctors may suggest that their patients not use certain drugs from different brands, especially when they have a safe range or  Narrow Therapeutic Index (NTI), indicating minor differences between their therapeutic and toxic doses. In other words, little changes in dosages or interactions with other drugs could lead to adverse effects.


From our generic vs brand name medication comparison, we can deduce that the former is just as efficient as the latter, with both possessing similar constituents – the same active ingredients but different inactive components.

That being said, it is always advised to see a medical professional before choosing between brand-name and generic medications for your prescription, as this is an effective practice for medication management for older persons.

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