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What is a patented medicine?

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In 2013, the patent on one of the most famous erectile medications, Viagra, expired. This year this will also happen to the impotence pill Cialis. But what exactly is a patent? A patent on a medicine means that the manufacturer has the sole right to produce and sell that product. No one else is allowed to make and market this medicine. This way, the manufacturer has the guarantee that he receives all the revenue from sales. The development, testing and production of a drug takes an enormous amount of time and money, it is therefore quite agreeable that patent rights exist.

How long does a patent on medication last?

A patent on medication does not last indefinitely. It usually involves a period of 20 years. Once the patent expires, the drug is released and other manufacturers can copy the drug and sell it under a different name. The replicated drug is called ‘generic’. The great advantage of generic drugs: they are much cheaper. That is because generic drug manufacturers have much lower costs for research and production. The manufacturer of the original brand drug has indeed done most of the work. The market also plays a role. There are more variations of the same medicine available, and the greater the supply, the lower the price.

What are the differences between a brand drug and a generic drug?

A generic drug contains the same active ingredient as a brand drug and therefore has basically the same effect. Generic drugs, however, also differ in certain respects from the original, for example when it comes to:
• Excipients. A generic medicinal product contains other excipients, for example, another filler, or another sweetener;
• Packaging. The drug may be packaged differently, for example in a blister, instead of a pot, or in any other kind of box;
• Leaflet. The generic drug has a leaflet written by another company and is therefore sometimes easier or more difficult to read.
• Taste and appearance. Sometimes, the generic drug has a different shape, smell, or color than the original.
• Structure. Sometimes the generic drugs are harder, softer or less likely to break than the branded drugs.

Is a generic drug as safe as a brand drug?

Generic medicines are strictly monitored for effectiveness and safety before they can be sold. Basically, generic drugs are as safe as brand drugs. And because insurers considerably cut down on costs, pharmacies tend to give out the cheaper generic medicines. Most people will notice little or no difference when switching to a generic drug. But sometimes this change does not go well, for instance if someone is allergic to certain excipients, or in case of a drug that operates on a close dosage. Annoying or even serious side effects may occur then.

What to do in case of side effects?

Unless the patent on drugs has not yet expired, the pharmacy can give you a generic drug. Do you suffer from side effects? Report it immediately to a doctor or a pharmacist. Do you want to continue using the brand drug instead of the generic? Then do not forget to check with your insurance company if they cover this. If that is not the case, the costs of the medicine is at your expense.


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