The names of medicines can often be confusing, as the same medicine can sometimes be called different things.
Many medicines have two names:
For example, sildenafil is the generic name of a medicine used to treat Impotence . However, the company that makes sildenafil, Pfizer, sells it under the brand name Viagra.
Both medicines have the same clinical effect, buteachseparate manufacturer can give it adifferent name.
It is similar to buying branded goods or a supermarket's own labelboth products do the same job, but the supermarket's own version is usually cheaper.
During the first few years a new medicine becomes available, it is usually marketedas abrand under a name given by the pharmaceutical company that developed it.
Companies take out patents (exclusive rights) on each new drug they discover to ensure they regain the money they spent on its development which can be as much as 1 billion and make a profit.
Having a patent means only that company can produce the medicine for a certain length of time. In the UK, the standard patent lasts 20 years, although this can sometimes be extended by up to another five years.
On average, it takes the first 10 to 15 years of this period to develop the medicine and obtain a licence.
During the remaining years, only that company can produce and sell the medicine to recover their costs and make a profit. They give the medicine a brand name for marketing purposes to make it more memorable, such as Viagra.
Once the patent protection expires, other companies can produce their own version of the medicine. For example, ibuprofen is the generic name of a medicine commonly used to treat pain and inflammation.
There are many branded versions of ibuprofen, such as Nurofen and Hedex. However, it is also sold under the generic name ibuprofen, but made by different manufacturers, such as Boots or Tesco.
Generic medicines are usually cheaper because there are fewer research and development costs, but they contain the same active ingredient as the branded products.
Generic medicines go through the same detailed safety and quality requirements as the original branded product.
This is because generic medicines are usually as effective as the branded versions, but can cost up to 80% less.
This frees up NHS resources to pay for other treatments. It also gives the pharmacist the widest choice of products to dispense. Thiscan be important, particularly if there is a shortage of a particular product.
If your prescriber changes your regular prescription from a branded medicine to a generic version, they should tell you about the change before you collect your prescription.
This is to ensure you understand that although your medicine may have a different name, it will still contain the same active ingredient. Your pharmacist can also be a helpful source of information and advice when this happens.
When you pick up your prescription, the medicine may look different and there will be a different name on the label. However, it willcontain the same active ingredient as the medicine you used before.
Inrare cases, it is important for a patient to stay on the branded medicine previously prescribed for them, rather than changing to a generic medicine. In such cases, the branded medicine is the most suitable product.
Some examples of when you should keep taking your brand of prescribed medicine include:
As medicines are a crucial part of medical treatment, it is important to have a good understanding of them.
Before a medicine can be widely used in the UK, it must first be granted a licence.
All medicines that are licensed for use in the UK are strictly regulated to ensure they are as safe as possible.