When a new medicine is developed, it is under patent for a number of years. When the patent expires, that medicine can be made by other manufacturers. The original medicine is called the ‘trade name’, and the later one is called the ‘generic’.
For example: “Kleenex” is the trade name of a brand, but “tissue” is the generic term.
Another example: “Tylenol” is the trade name, and “Acetaminophen” is the generic.
To use an [tag]ADHD[/tag] example, [tag]Ritalin[/tag] is a trade name, and [tag]Methylphenidate[/tag] is the [tag]generic medicine[/tag].
Why is a medicine under patent?
The medicine is protected under patent for a number of years to allow the Research and Development [tag]Pharmaceutical Companies[/tag] (i.e. the companies that develop the medicine and do all of the research and testing to bring it to market) to market that medicine exclusively, so that they can recoup the investment that they have made into the development of the drug.
It costs approximatly $900 million USD to bring a medicine to market now. That is a lot of money – and means that the company should be given time to earn income due to their extensive investment.
After the patent runs out, other companies can make the same medicine, as a generic. In the same way that many companies can make tissues, but only one can market under ‘Kleenex’.
What is the immediate benefit of a generic?
Mainly, it is the same medicine and it is cheaper.
In Canada, one can buy trade name ‘Ritalin’ (with a prescription, of course), or alternatively, one can get ‘Apo-Methylphenidate’, or ‘Novo-Methylphenidate’. The ‘brand’ of medicine which is given is often determined by the insurance that pays for the pills. Often the insurance will specify that if the generic is available, then that is what they will cover (because it is cheaper and will save them money).
Are generics the same as the trade name medicine?
The rules for generics are:
- they have to be the exact same chemical
- they can only have a 20% variance in the amount of active medicine getting into the blood stream.
The difference in absorption from one preparation to another has to do a lot with the ‘binders’ in the tablet, etc.
Generally, if someone is started on one generic preparation and then stays with that generic, it is not a concern.
The issue comes if someone’s pharmacy or drug plan changes the generic – there could be a swing of a maximum of 40% difference in the amount of medicine hitting the blood stream.
For example, if someone is on Methylphenidate A, and the amount that gets into the blood stream is 20% higher than Ritalin; and then the pharmacy switches the generic Methylphenidate to Methylphenidate B, and methylphenidate B is 20% lower than Ritalin, the patient could be on the same dose, and end up with a 40% change in medication in the bloodstream.
In general, the changes are much more minor with generics, and most people have little if any problem or issues with them.
However, this can be a real problem for some people who are more sensitive to medicine.
If you find that a change in the trade name or generic medicine is a problem, speak to your pharmacist and your doctor. Your doctor can write 2 words on the prescription to force the pharmacist to stick to a specific preparation of the medicine.
Those two words are: “No Substitution”. That means that the pharmacist has to dispense the exact medicine written by the doctor, and cannot substitute it for a cheaper generic form of the medication. You will need to check with your insurance, though – as they may refuse to pay for the more expensive version.
Which ADHD medication is generic?
In general, the longer a medicine has been out, the more likely it is generic.
Ritalin and Dexedrine are generic. Newer preparations like Concerta, Metadate, Adderall XR and Strattera are not generic. Neither is Focalin, Ritalin LA, etc. These will likely go generic in approximately 10-20 years.
Have you had experience with this? Maybe trouble with generics? If so, please share your experience by posting a comment on this blog.