13. What is a generic medicine?

A generic medicine is a medicine whose active ingredient is identical to the active ingredient in a patented medicine that is out of patent.

In the USA medicine Patents provide for 20 years of protection and are applied at the start of a medicines development making the actual patent protection once the medicine is marketed less than 10 years. The developer gives the new medicine a unique name known as the “brand name” of the medicine.

When the 20 year patent protection expires the company no longer has a monopoly on the medicine and other companies can produce copies. These copies are called Generic medicines.

They have the same “dose form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics, and intended use” as the original patented medicine.

They may have different inactive ingredients and have a different colour and shape from the patented medicine but this should not affect the effectiveness or quality of the generic medicine.

All generic medicines must pass the same quality standards as the original patented medicine and are manufactured by government approved companies.

Because generic medicine companies do not have research and development costs they can manufacture and market generic medicines considerably cheaper than the patented medicine companies. For this reason a major portion of our prescription medicines are generic medicines enabling our government to get maximum value from the health budget.