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Generic Medicines: Are they safe?

Amid a pounding headache, runny nose, or sore throat, an effective and safe medicine is of vital importance to find relief. But when scouring the pharmacy aisles, is it okay to buy the generic product?  Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, the Remington professor of pharmacy at University of the Sciences’ Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, feels consumers should have confidence in the quality and effectiveness of generic products.

“Every drug has a generic name,” explained Dr. Hussar. “When a company obtains patents for medications they are developing, they are provided a certain period of time during which that patent is applicable, and they have exclusive rights to market the drug. When the patent expires, other companies can pursue the right to market products, develop them to the specifications of the original ‘brand-name’ product, and sell the generic products.”

When purchasing a generic medicine that is available without a prescription, Dr. Hussar explained the first step is evaluating symptoms in need of relief.  Once symptoms are assessed, it is necessary to identify the active ingredient or ingredients in the brand name product.  When a runny nose and headache are the symptoms, consumers must look for a generic product with the same two active ingredients of the brand in the same exact quantities. 

“Sometimes that is easier said then done,” admitted Hussar. “Generic names like acetaminophen - the active ingredient in Tylenol - are tongue-twisting and usually are in smaller type print. There usually isn’t much reason or motivation for the consumer to try to learn the generic name as much as the brand name, but there are situations in which it is important to know of products with the same benefits.”

Dr. Hussar strongly recommends that patients speak with a pharmacist before selecting the generic product that will be the most effective and safest to use for the symptoms that they are experiencing.  Community pharmacists are a valuable resource to provide guidance on which medications should be used, medication ingredients, dosage, side-effects, and possible drug interactions.

“Generic products are necessary today in situations such as the recall of popular brand medicines,” said Dr. Hussar. “Pharmacists will be able to help consumers give sufficient thought to the medicine they are purchasing and the active ingredients they need to relieve their symptoms.”

Recognized annually as American Pharmacists Month, October is a time to recognize the significant contributions to healthcare and the commitment to patient care by pharmacists in all practice settings around the country. The theme this year is “Know Your Medicine. Know Your Pharmacist.”  The University of the Sciences American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) chapter celebrates October with a host of activities to draw attention to the profession.


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