Generic vs. originator medicines

Many patients are not aware that their prescription has a generic alternative, or they believe the generic option won’t be as effective. 

Mopani Pharmacy Responsible Pharmacist, Corné Cilliers explains everything you need to know about generic medicine.

Pseudo-generic or clone

“These medicines are identical to the originator. The only difference is the name and the identifying details on the label. This type of generic is often made by the originator company.”

Licenced generic

“These medicines have the same formulation, but are produced by a different company.”

True generic

“It will contain the same active ingredients, but different inactive ingredients. An active ingredient is the component of a medication responsible for the medication's effects. Inactive ingredients refer to the flavour, sugar content and preservatives.”

Can I trust a generic?

“Generic medicines have to go through rigorous testing and approval before it is placed on the market. Testing ensures the product is safe for human consumption and that it has the same therapeutic   effects as its originator. There should be no more than a 20% difference between the peak blood level of the original and generic medicine.”

Why should I opt for a generic alternative?

“Generic medication is more affordable. The patient saves on medical expenses, especially if medication is taken chronically. It helps to control medical expenditure preserving medical aid funding. Medical aid funds get depleted quickly and generic medication is a way to preserve it. Saving R100 per month amounts to saving R1200 per year.”

Why would I buy an originator if the generic is more affordable?

“The generic product often saves production costs with inexpensive packaging and savings on initial research of the formulation. This aids in making it more affordable. However, the added price on the originator funds new research. The profits of one, ensures the development of another. Many who support new research and advancement of medicine, will support the originator.”

“The other factor is bioavailability. This refers to the rate and concentration of the product at which the body absorbs the product. It is often proven that the originator will work slightly better or faster.”


“In cases of serious conditions such as seizures or other brain related ailments, caution is advised when opting for either a generic or an originator medication. Chemical balances of the brain are delicate and doctors often prescribe one or the other, specifically for the small differences in their formulation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before switching from originator to generic or vice versa.”

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