Generic Drugs

Generic drugs contain the same active therapeutic
ingredient(s), in the same amount and strength, as the original brand name drug. The "fillers"– non-medicinal components – may differ and the appearance may or may not be similar to that of the brand name product. In Canada, both brand name and generic drugs have to meet the same high quality and safety standards under the good manufacturing practice requirements monitored by Health Canada.
 
Generic products usually cost less than the original brand name drugs. One example is Zocor™ which is 170% more expensive than its generic equivalent. The provincial government will only pay for the lowest cost generic product when designated as interchangeable in a specific province. Occasionally, a brand name manufacturer will lower their product cost to match the generic product cost so they can maintain a reasonable market share.
 
In reality, pharmacies may no longer stock the brand name drug when it has at least one generic interchangeable drug in a specific province. Even when a patient orders the brand name drug, the pharmacist will supply the lowest cost generic equivalent without having to seek permission from the prescribing physician.
 
Most private payers follow the provincial interchangeable pricing structure and cutback the cost of the brand name to the lowest cost generic in the provincial formulary. The doctor can indicate that "No Substitution" should take place with the small percentage of patients who may be allergic to the non-medicinal fillers in a drug. Under these circumstances, drug plans may pay the cost of the brand name drug.
 
There are a number of generic manufacturers licensed in Canada and each province determines which products to list as interchangeable on their own formulary. Until a generic product is listed as interchangeable on a provincial formulary, there is usually no incentive for the pharmacist to purchase or dispense the drug.