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Generic drugs

Generic prescribing

If your regular medicine seems to have changed, and is in different packaging than you are used to, your GP may have switched your prescription from a branded option to a generic medicine.

Doctors are encouraged to prescribe by using the generic name. This is because:

  • The generic name is the one doctors are trained to use. There are sometimes many brand (trade) names for one medicine. Possible confusion or mistakes are reduced if all doctors use the same names when talking about and prescribing medicines.
  • Generic medicines are often cheaper for the NHS. Even for medicines that you can buy, such as paracetamol, there is often a big price difference between brands.

Did you know? 

Generic name. Each medicine has an approved name called the generic name. A group of medicines that have similar ac...

  • Generic name. Each medicine has an approved name called the generic name. A group of medicines that have similar actions often have similar-sounding generic names. For example, phenoxymethylpenicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin and flucloxacillin are in one group of antibiotics.
  • Brand (trade) name. Many medicines also have one or more brand names. This is chosen by the company that makes it. Several companies may make the same generic medicine, each with their own brand name. The name is often chosen to be memorable for advertising, or to be easier to say or spell than the generic name. For example, paracetamol is a generic name. There are several companies that make this with brand names such as Panadol®, Calpol®, etc.

The brand name is usually written most clearly on any packaging. However, you will always see the generic name written somewhere on the packet (often in small print). Some medicines only have the generic name on the packet.

The colour, size, shape, etc, of brands of the same medicine may vary depending on which company makes it. However, the medicine will be the same if the generic name is the same as before.

In the UK there are strict quality controls before a product licence is granted for brand (trade) named or generic ve...

In the UK there are strict quality controls before a product licence is granted for brand (trade) named or generic versions of medicines. This means that a generic or brand name version of the same medicine will be of the same quality, and have the same action.

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If there is any change to your medicine which gives you cause for concern, please ask your Pharmacist or GP.