Generic vs original medication take two

Generics vs original medication - which is your poison?

About 56% of prescriptions in South Africa are for generics, which can save up to 80% on your bill.

But according to Pharma Dynamic, some people complain of side effects and slower results when using generics compared to the original.

A phenomenon that has been coined the ‘nocebo effect’.

Also read: Generic medication vs the original – are you suffering from the ‘nocebo effect’?

Ballito’s Dr Helena Nothnagel said she tries to avoid prescribing generics.

“Unless my patient specifically asks for a generic, I will always go with original medication because I feel it is generally better,” said Dr Nothnagel.

The only alternative she agreed with are clones.

“I love clones – generic medication made by the same company that makes the original. Generics are often made to look like clones, so you have to be very careful that you get the right one.”

However, Generic & Biosimilar Medicines South Africa’s CEO Vivian Frittelli claim that generic medication is on par with the original.

“Generic medication enables cost effective, quality and safe medication to be provided to the wider population.

“The registration requirements of both original medicines and generic medicines in South Africa are exactly the same, thus both meet equivalent standards,” said Frittelli.

He said:

  • Over 60% of medicines used in the private sector in South Africa are generic, while over 80% of medicines in the public sector are from generic manufacturers.

    Frattelli said the anti-retroviral programme (ARV) run by the department of health, which is the biggest in the world, is run almost exclusively with generic medicines.


  • Many of the world’s leading originator manufacturers who do business in South Africa own generic suppliers. Examples are Sanofi which owns Zentiva and Novartis which owns Sandoz. If there was anything inferior about generic medications, these prominent companies would not be involved in the generic space.


  • There are multiple cases of originator companies selling their products to generic manufacturers, who continue producing these under the original brand name. GSK, a British based company, sold many of their brands to Aspen Pharma, a South African company.


  • Regarding the topic of clones, there is no way of telling whether that product has the same source of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) as the original unless one is privy to the registration dossier. There are many cases where clones are produced by contract manufacturers at sites other than where the originator was made. Clones are actually a marketing ploy, which the originator company uses to reduce the price of the original before generic competition forces a price reduction. How is it that an “ exact copy” (clone) of a drug can suddenly be produced at a lower cost if it comes from the same factory and contains the identical components?



>>  Expect to find the latest trends in Health, Wellness and Beauty in Ballito.

>> Meet the top players in the North Coast property industry. See our Property People feature.

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Elana Geist

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