As many of you know, the Government recently approved the importation of prescription drugs from India, Brazil and Israel.

This move sparked concerns throughout the island regarding the safety of these drugs and prompted a general mistrust in generic drugs. 

To address these concerns, Government has tightened the regulation of imported prescription drugs so they meet the high standards stipulated by other major western countries. Now, drugs can be imported to Bermuda from anywhere in the world, but they must have been approved for sale in the US, Canada or a European country and meet their regulatory standards. Additionally, all commercial importers of prescription drugs must register with the Ministry of Health and prove they meet data collection and storage standards.

Still, in the wake of this legislation I have encountered continued concerns over the safety and efficacy of generic drugs. Hopefully, this article will provide further background and assurance when it comes to choosing the lower-cost alternative of generic drugs.

Many people become concerned because generic drugs are often substantially cheaper than the brand-name versions. Even the word “cheaper” raises eyebrows for some. They wonder if the quality and effectiveness have been compromised to make the less expensive products. This is simply not true. In Bermuda, the drugs we import must meet the high standards of American, Canadian and European regulating authorities, which all require that generic drugs made in those countries or imported from another country for sale or distribution, be as safe and effective as brand name drugs and that they are manufactured in facilities that follow good manufacturing practices. These standards also apply to brand name medications.

A generic drug is identical — or bioequivalent — to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand name counterparts.

The reason generic drugs are less expensive is because the manufacturers have not had to take on the expense of developing and marketing a new drug. When a company brings a new drug onto the market, the firm has already spent substantial money on research and development, and will incur marketing and promotional costs for the drug. A patent is granted that gives the company that developed the drug an exclusive right to sell the drug as long as the patent is in effect. When the patent for a brand name drug runs out, generic drugs are permitted to enter the market. They are able to compete with brand name drugs by offering lower prices. Unlike the manufacturers of brand name drugs, generic drug companies do not have significant expenses to recoup for advertising, marketing and promotion, or research and development activities. When multiple companies begin producing and selling a drug, the competition among them can also drive the price down even further.

Generic drugs are important options that allow greater access to health care for many patients. Health care professionals and consumers can be assured that generic drug products in Bermuda have met the same rigid standards as the innovator drug. So, the next time you need medication, consider asking your doctor or pharmacist for generic alternatives that will save you money without compromising your health. 

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm