Is it wise (and healthy) to buy generic medicine?

Picture taken from hitthatswitch's Photostream on Flickr ( consumers we are being offered, in an increasing number of domains, the choice between ‘big brand’ products and store brands or ‘white labels’. A nice way to save some money, right? Especially since more and more research is showing that the quality is very much comparable (if not completely the same, or at least being manufactured in the same production facilities), why not choose the cheaper alternative for everyday products such as milk or paper tissues?

But if your health is at stake, things might be a bit different – or so a lot of people seem to think: there might be no real risk in eating a pizza with a crust that is a bit less crunchy [the real risk obviously being the fact that you eat prefabricated pizza of any brand – at least if that’s a daily habbit], or in using toilet paper that is a bit less fluffy [you can no doubt work out the actual risk there yourself], but should you even consider to take the risk of swallowing a pill that might be of a somewhat lesser quality?

I no way am I qualified to give a scientifically solid explanation supporting a claim in either direction – generic medicine either having the same quality level as their branded counterparts or a lesser quality – but I do know a shortcut that will give a strong indication: just look at what the people who are qualified to know are doing when their own health (or the health of those dear to them) is concerned. In this particular case: what do doctors, nurses and pharmacists do if they are in need of medication? Do they buy branded or generic? It turns out the answer is quite clear and unambiguous: those who are well informed buy much more generic medicine compared to the overall population, as shown in a study published earlier this year. Do you think they would do this if they were convinced that the quality was in one way or another lesser, and that they would hence potentially harm their own health by not resorting to the best possible product on the market?

Conclusion: yes, it is both wise and no threat whatsoever to your health to buy generic medicine. Provided of course that medication is the best solution in the given situation – but I’m keeping that discussion for a future blogpost (as a follow up in fact to an earlier post).

2 thoughts on “Is it wise (and healthy) to buy generic medicine?

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Jan,
    I would love to read up on the study you have referred to but the link you have provided is broken

    1. Jan Van Haver Post author

      The URL I had originally provided indeed seems not to valid anymore. Fortunately, the research paper is still available through another URL (so I have obviously adapted the reference in the text – so clicking the link should work again).


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