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Do generic drugs live up to expectations?
Most people are familiar with the term generic drug. It is meant to be an inexpensive version of its brand-name counterpart, identical in composition and effectiveness. Its lower price makes it a popular choice for many people.
Kate Faasse, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, studies components of generic and brand-name drugs. Earlier in 2015, she carried out a study published in Health Psychology, involving 87 college students who experienced frequent headaches.
Each of the students were given four doses of ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever, to treat the next four headaches they experienced. The pill ingredients were as follows:
1. One labeled Nurofen, sold in New Zealand and containing ibuprofen
2. One labeled Nurofen, which was a placebo
3. One labeled generic ibuprofen containing ibuprofen
4. One labeled generic ibuprofen, which was a placebo
According to the study, the tablets that listed an active ingredient or a brand name worked well. Placebo pills bearing a brand name worked as well as pills containing ibuprofen. Pills containing no drug and bearing no brand name were much less effective at relieving pain. When side effects were analyzed, there were more linked to the generic placebo than the brand name placebo.
Dr. Faasse said that she was not surprised that the branded placebo was as effective as the active ibuprofen because of the strong influence of patient expectation. She believes that the combination of confidence in the brand-name drug and mistrust of the generic accounts for the results.
Dr. Faasse notes that a well-known pharmaceutical company name on a product’s label makes the drug seem more effective to the majority of people. The lower cost of the generic drug could also stir up insecurities regarding the drug’s potency when compared to a more expensive, branded drug. She also found that branded drugs with familiar packaging were preferred to generic drugs in plain packaging, pleasing packaging apparently contributing to positive expectations.
Generic drugs allow affordable access to treatment and improve health conditions, particularly important for people who cannot afford brand-name medications. Over-the-counter brand-name drugs can be compared with a store’s generic product simply by reading the ingredients on both containers. The design of the container has no bearing on the quality or effectiveness of the contents.
If you or a loved one has questions regarding drug addiction or its treatment, please call Kansas City Drug Treatment Rehab Center at 816-399-2323.