Same Drug, Different Look: Generics and Brand Drug Appearances

One of the most common questions that our pharmacists are asked at Canada Drugs concerns why the color, shape or marking on generic drugs differ from what patients are used to on their brand name drugs. The simple answer is, they look different because they have to. Even though the drugs are same chemically, the big pharmaceutical companies that make the brand name versions protect their patents by ensuring that the generic equivalents differ in appearance from the brand.

In an article in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jeremy Greene and Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim explore at length why generic pills look different from their brand-name equivalents and from competitors that the Food and Drug Administration certifies as being bioequivalent — having the same effect on the body and they question whether the difference in appearance has public health implications.

In the article they make the case that rules that force generic drugs to look different than the brand version often confuses patients and can result in patients going off their medication when they are presented a drug that looks different than one they were formerly taking. Also, of concern is that when you struggle with high prescription costs, it is generic alternatives that are often the best way to fit the medication into your budget, and even though the drugs are therapeutically equivalent, many people don’t make the switch to cheaper generics because they look different.

The New York Times explored the issue of generic pill differences at length. The bottom line is that generics look different, but are the exact same medication and are always significantly cheaper.

The fastest way for you to save on your prescription drug bill is to contact Canada Drugs and speak to one of our Patient Service Representatives about the availability of generic equivalents to your current medications. You’ll be looking at savings of 40%-80% off your current costs, for the same drug, but it might come in a red pill instead of a blue pill, but you need to ask yourself is it worth paying so much more for the blue pill just because it has a brand name with a big marketing push behind it? When you’re struggling with high drug costs, the answer most often is no.

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