What’s the Difference between Generic Drugs and Brand Name Medication?

Price is the big difference. The rest are pretty minor

Credit: Flickr / photobunny_earl

Why pay more when you can get generic drugs that are cheaper and identical?

Are less-expensive generic versions of brand-name drugs as safe and effective as the original? The answer is yes: both drugs are essentially identical

Generic drugs are produced to the same standards of quality as brand-name drugs and are chemically identical to their brand-name counterparts so they deliver the same pharmacological effect.

They are also identical in dosage, administration, intended use, effect, side effects, potential risks, strength and safety.

Differences between Brand Name and Generic Drugs

There are, however, several differences between generic and brand name drugs.


Generic and brand-name drugs differ in appearance as they are not allowed to look the same by law.

Generic versions of brand-name drugs may be different in shape, colour or flavour, and there can also be minor differences in their inactive ingredients and fillers.

Price Difference

The reason generic drugs are much cheaper than brand-name drugs is because their manufacturers have not incurred the research, development and marketing costs of the original developers of these medications.

When a company puts a new drug on the market, it holds a patent that gives it exclusive rights to sell the drug. Once the patent runs out, other manufacturers can begin producing and selling cheaper generic versions.


Generic drugs are as safe and effective as brand-name drugs, and provide a way to significantly reduce both your prescription and non-prescription drug costs.

If you require medications, talk to your doctor about possible generic equivalents.

(Note: Some people claim generic medications don’t work as well as their previous brand-name medications. This may be related to individual tolerance or to the non-medicinal ingredients. However, biochemically, the medications are identical.)

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.