Generic heart drugs as good as brand name drugs

December 11, 2008 by  

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More bad news for big pharma. And good news for patients. Generic drugs are just as good as brand-name drugs, according to this study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Use of generic drugs, which are bioequivalent to brand-name drugs, can help contain prescription drug spending. However, there is concern among patients and physicians that brand-name drugs may be clinically superior to generic drugs.

It has also been observed that many editorials of medical journals are slightly biased against the use of generic drugs in place of brand-name drugs.

The study authors decided to conduct a thorough investigation of the issue. They gathered data from peer-reviewed articles from January 1984 to August 2008 that compared the efficacy and safety of generic vs. brand-name drugs. They specifically looked at drugs used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases such as beta blockers, alpha-blockers, antiplatelet agents, statins, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers.

The results of the meta-analysis showed that in most cases, generics are just as good as their more costly, branded counterparts. These are based of measurements of clinical outcomes which included heart rate, blood pressure, and death

According to first author Dr. Aaron Kesselheim (source:, “we found no evidence that brand-name drugs are any better in terms of clinical outcomes than generic drugs … The FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] has approved all generic drugs and certifies that they are bioequivalent, meaning equivalent in all biological and chemical characteristics of the drug.

Yet, the authors observed that many editorials and comments in peer-reviewed journals did express enthusiasm and support for generics. In fact, 53% of these types of publication reviewed had somewhat negative view of replacing brand-name drugs with generics.

The results of the current study are a big blow to large pharmaceutical companies (see previous post). To be fair, they did their part in developing new drugs. A company will spend millions of dollars to develop a single drug for which it can keep the patent for a certain number of years. As soon as the patent expires, generic cheaper versions of the drug can be sold on the market as long as the regulatory authorities deemed they are equivalent to the original drug.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represent pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the US issued the following statement about the study through its Senior Vice President Ken Johnson (source:

PhRMA has always supported patients receiving the medicines that are best for them, including both brand-name medicines and generic drugs, …without today’s brand-name drugs to legally copy, there would be no generic drug industry. Worse yet, there would be little hope of finding new treatments and cures for a wide range of debilitating — and often deadly — diseases.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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