CAMAF Member Option Guides & Info

What are Generic Medicines?

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GETTING TO GRIPS WITH GENERICS The press is packed with stories about the spiralling cost of healthcare and the inflated cost of drugs. Medicine is already out of reach of many South Africans. If costs continue to spiral at the same levels, average medical aid premiums will exceed average family bond repayments within five years! Something simply has to be done. With medicine costs on the increase, most of us are continually looking for ways to save money without compromising on quality. One of the simplest, most effective ways to cut your medical bills is to use generic medicines. Many medical schemes are implementing the use of generic medicines as a part of their ongoing drive to bring down costs to their members. This ensures that medicine benefits are stretched, especially if medicine benefits are limited or the member has levies or co-payments to pay. By choosing a generic drug, you could decrease the cost of your medicine by as much as 50%, helping your benefits or savings stretch that much further. People often wonder if generic medicines are as good as their brand-name counterparts. Why all the fuss? Should you be concerned when you receive generic medicines from your pharmacy? WHAT ARE GENERIC MEDICINES A generic drug is exactly the same as the original, pharmaceutically researched and branded drug but is much more affordable. ARE GENERIC MEDICINES THE SAME AS THE ORIGINAl? The active ingredient in any generic equivalent has to be the same as the original drug, or it will not be made available in South Africa, where strict control measures are in place. Only once it has been tested and proven to be as effective and safe as the original (known as bio-equivalence) will the generic medicine be approved for sale. Generic drugs are the same as the brand-name drug in safety, strength, dosage form and route of administration. They also meet the same or comparable quality standards as the original drugs. WHy DO GENERIC MEDICINES COST lESS? It takes pharmaceutical companies 10 to 12 years to discover and test new drugs. And it costs an average of US$800 million to do this for each drug. Developing a new medicine to the point where it can be sold to the public thus takes many years, and costs an enormous amount of money. Only the very large global drug companies can afford to invest this kind of money into research and development. Obviously this research and development is very costly and, to protect the pharmaceutical company's investment a patent is then granted for each medication, which prevents a competitive pharmaceutical company from developing and selling the same medicine. This patent says that for a fixed time, that company is the only one that can make and sell the particular drug. However, after a period of time, usually 20 years (this includes the testing period), that patent expires and other competitors can produce and sell the drug under a different name, allowing for what are known as generic drugs.

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