Correcting Misconceptions About Generic Medications

Generic medications have a negative reputation among patients, but pharmacists can change that.

Generic medications have a negative reputation among patients, but pharmacists can change that.

A pair of researchers recently conducted a comprehensive literature review to assess physician, pharmacist, and patient opinions of generics.

Although opinions have improved in all 3 cohorts, some mistrust remains, particularly among patients who appear to strongly believe that lower drug price means lower drug quality. However, pharmacists can correct this misconception by explaining the similarities of the active ingredients in the generic and brand-name versions.

“Pharmacists may have to take a little more time with patients to explain what a generic is and assure consumers of equivalency of generics with proprietary medicines,” lead study author Suzanne S. Dunne told Pharmacy Times. “Pharmacists may also have to deal with questions or confusion from patients, as generic medicines can often look different from the branded medicine, may have different packaging, and will have a different name.”

Dunne noted that the shape or color of a generic drug could differ significantly from its brand-name counterpart, which could confuse patients. To avoid this, pharmacists should stress that these superficial details do not impact the safety or efficacy of the generic version, she said.

“During a discussion with a patient who was being switched to a generic asthma inhaler and wasn’t happy about it, the pharmacist showed the patient the ingredients list of both the branded product and the generic equivalent,” Dunne shared as an example. “By showing the patient that the active ingredient was the same in both, the patient understood that they were getting the same thing with the generic inhaler and accepted it. The patient never reported having any issues with the generic inhaler.”

Dunne also found that a change in medication, rather than a switch to a generic, could be the cause of distress in a patient. A physician or patient’s brand loyalty may also be difficult to overcome while explaining the merits of a generic drug.

In any case, explanatory leaflets can be valuable tools for pharmacists, Dunne noted.

The study was published in BMC Medicine.