Generic medicines are just as good

Are generic brands of a medicine as safe and effective as the original brand?

All medicines sold in Australia must be approved by the government through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The TGA requires generic brands of a medicine to meet the same strict standards of quality, safety and effectiveness as the original brand (the first patented brand of that medicine). This applies to both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Alternative choices are just as safe and effective

You will only be offered a generic brand of a prescription medicine if it is proven to be bioequivalent to the original brand. This means that the active ingredient is identical and the medicine is manufactured to have the same effect in the body. So you can be confident that the generic brand will have the same potential health benefits as your usual brand, or the brand on your prescription. The potential side effects will also be the same.


When a different brand may not be an option

Sometimes you won’t be offered an alternative brand:

  • For a small number of medicines (such as warfarin), different brands may contain the same active ingredient but not be bioequivalent. In these situations you should stick with your usual brand and your pharmacist will provide you with the brand that has been prescribed. This sometimes arises from differences in the manufacturing process and means that the active ingredient might not have exactly the same effect in the body.
  • Some people may need to avoid an alternative brand because of other ingredients (known as excipients) in the medicine, such as lactose, gluten, preservatives, sweeteners and dyes. You can find more information about the inactive ingredients in your medicines by reading the consumer medicines information (CMI). Check with your pharmacist if you are unsure.
  • People with certain conditions may be advised to stick with their original prescribed brand.

If your doctor ticks the ‘Brand substitution not permitted’ box on the prescription, the pharmacist will know not to offer you an alternative brand. You can also request your usual brand if you don’t want to change it.

Find out more about the things you need to consider when choosing an alternative medicine brand.

What else can I do to be medicinewise?

  • Consumers can call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for more information about prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.
  • Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about your medicine brand choices.