5 questions to ask when you are offered an alternative brand of medicine: Be medicinewise Week 2012
NPS has released a new quick question guide for consumers designed to help them make a safe and confident choice between medicine brands.
Available on the NPS website, the 5 questions cover what consumers should ask their pharmacist when they are offered a different brand of their medicine so that they make the right choice for them.
New research from NPS* found that 74% of Australians who take prescription medicines were offered an alternative brand of one of their medicines by their pharmacist the last time they purchased it. Of those offered a choice, 72% accepted the offer and purchased the alternative brand while 25% stayed with the brand they were originally prescribed.
NPS Head of Programs Karen Kaye says that with changes to medicine pricing arrangements coming into effect this weekend, the cost to consumers of many medicines will drop and some brands may become less expensive than others.
“Many people will be offered different brands of their usual medicines and, for most people, cost will be an important issue,” says Ms Kaye.
“Ultimately the choice lies with the consumer but it’s important people know that if they are offered an alternative brand of their prescription medicine, it will be just as safe and effective as their original brand.”
Ms Kaye says pharmacists will only offer an alternative brand of a medicine if it is bioequivalent to — that is, it works exactly the same way as — the original brand.
“When the patent for a medicine expires, other companies are able to manufacture medicines containing the same active ingredient and dose as the original brand. This means both brands have the same effect on your body,” says Ms Kaye.
“For some people the benefits of choosing a different brand, such as a lower price, may not be worth the drawbacks, such as adjusting to a different-looking medicine packet. People with certain conditions or in certain circumstances may be advised by their doctor to stick with their original brand.”
Medicine mishaps with generic medicines often come about because people don’t realise that the new brand of medicine is intended to replace an existing brand. Keeping a Medicines List is one way to keep track of the active ingredient in each medicine you’re taking to ensure you don’t double up.
“If you are confused or unsure, talk with your doctor, pharmacist or health professional who can help work out which choice is best for you,” says Ms Kaye.
5 questions to ask when you are offered an alternative brand of medicine
- Is it okay for me to choose a different brand of my medicine?
- What are the benefits and disadvantages for me if I use a different brand?
- Is there a difference in cost?
- Which of my usual medicines does this replace?
What is the active ingredient in my medicine?
Information about making safe medicine brand choices is available on the NPS website.
People with questions about their medicines can also call the Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE or 1300 633 424), Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm EST.
The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing also has information for consumers about price disclosure at www.pbs.gov.au/info/industry/pricing/eapd/price-disclosure-info-for-consumers
* This Newspoll study was conducted by telephone in March 2012 among a representative sample of n=1205 respondents aged 18+ nationally.ENDS
Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.