Why are some drugs expensive than others with similar functioning

On 4 August 2020 at 11:52

People have always believed that a brand drug treats better than a generic one. Those who regularly get their medication from private Pharmacies are familiar with distinguishing a brand drug from a generic drug. To make sure they get the brand drugs, some patients like to ask questions like: Uyu muti ni spécialité se? [Is this a brand drug?]Njyewe Mvurwa Na specialite or Umwana wanjye avurwa na Specialite gusa [I am only treated by a brand drug or my child is only treated by brand drug].

Pharmacists oftentimes hear this from various clients. I have been working in a Pharmacy for last five months in addition to my internship period but this statement has come to my ears a hundred times.

People are most concerned because brand drugs are most of the time more expensive than their generic versions. They wonder if the quality and effectiveness have been compromised to make the less expensive products.

However, people should know that a generic drug has the same amount and type of active principle, the same route of administration, and the same therapeutic effectiveness as the original drug. So there’s no truth in the myths that generic drugs are manufactured in poorer-quality facilities or are inferior in quality to brand-name drugs.

When a pharmaceutical company develops a new drug for a certain disease condition, that drug is initially sold under a brand name.

After a drug is discovered, the original manufacturer is given rights to sell that drug for a certain period of time without anyone else authorized to sell the same drug(Patent protection).That company will be the only one with full authority to manufacture, market and benefit from that drug.

However, this authority will not last forever; it has a lifetime that varies between countries and drugs but globally the maximum is 20 years.

Since the pharmaceutical company has spent millions of dollars on research, development, clinical trials, marketing and promotion of the said drug, it is only fair that a relatively higher price be placed upon a brand drug than on its generic versions.

As the patent nears expiration, other manufacturers can apply to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for permission to make and sell the same drug. Only then can the generic versions of the drug be manufactured.

The brand drug only belongs to the first developer of the drug. Without the costs of research, drug development and clinical trials other companies can afford to make and sell generic drugs cheaply.

Moreover, when multiple companies begin producing and selling a drug, the competition among them can drive the price of the drug down even further. That’s why generic drugs are cheap because the manufacturers have not had the expenses of developing, clinical trials and marketing a new drug.

Sometimes, generic versions of a drug might have different colors, flavors, or combinations of inactive ingredients than the original medications. However, Food and Drug Authorities require that generic drugs work as fast and as effectively as the initial brand-name products.

Generic drugs will not look exactly like the brand-name preparation, but the active ingredients must be the same in both preparations, ensuring that both have the same medicinal effects.

The fact that a certain drug is cheap does not equate being fake or substandard. People should not spend a lot of money on brand drugs (Specialite) unless they can afford them. Even those who can afford the relatively expensive brand drugs would better think of saving some money by buying generic drugs, since they are both effective.

Author: Amon NSENGIMANA,
Registered Pharmacist

When a pharmaceutical company develops a new drug for a certain disease condition, that drug is initially sold under a brand name.