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Patient perceptions of generics in Ireland Posted 16/01/2015

In an attempt to benefit from the cost savings associated with use of generics, in June 2013 the Irish Government introduced generics substitution and reference pricing for the first time via the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act. However, as perceptions of Irish patients towards generics have not been published previously, the objective of this study was to assess how generics were perceived amongst patients in the Irish health system [1].

In this first study of patient perceptions of generics in Ireland, 34 patients participated in semi-structured interviews (which were supplemented by further quantitative assessment of perceptions).

Nearly one-third of patients had no knowledge of generics and 39% of those exhibited confusion between the words ‘generic’ and ‘genetic’. Almost one quarter held the view that generics were of poorer quality than originators, while 18% expressed the opinion that generics do not work as well as originator products. Approximately one-third of patients believed that generics were manufactured to a poorer quality, with the same proportion holding the view that generics are less expensive due to being of inferior quality.

Nearly 90% of patients stated they would take a generic medicine if it were prescribed by their general practitioner (GP) – showing that patients will overrule their own negative perceptions if a trusted GP prescribes a generic medicine to them. However, 24% of patients stated a preference, if offered a choice, for the originator medication. Of the patients interviewed, 50% stated that a leaflet, or similar, with appropriate, understandable and accessible information regarding generics would be of use to them.

The qualitative nature of this study showed that correct understanding of generics by the general public – as determined by previous quantitative studies that often do not delve beyond an initial awareness – may be overestimated. It further highlights variable knowledge about generics among this key stakeholder group.

Although patients are supportive of their more widespread use, concerns regarding safety, clinical effectiveness and manufacturing quality of generics were identified. In an era when usage of generics is an ever-increasing and necessary part of cost control in healthcare provision, elucidation of the root causes of persisting negative opinions about generics is important to determining the actions to be taken to mitigate them. However, determining such root causes must be done with care, as high-level surveys that do not investigate the deeper understanding of study participants may overestimate the level of understanding of, or familiarity with, generics.

Provision of information/education to patients, in a jargon-free, easy-to-understand manner, which explains the differences as well as the similarities, including the equivalency of generics, may be key to improving patient opinions and negating the mistrust that the patient cohort exhibits.

Conflict of interest
The authors of the research paper [1] declared that there were no conflicts of interest.

Abstracted by Suzanne S Dunne, PhD, Centre for Interventions in Infection, Inflammation and Immunity (4i), Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Ireland

Editor’s comment
Readers interested to learn more about patients’ perceptions of generics are invited to visit www.gabi-journal.net to view the following manuscripts published in GaBI Journal:

A review of patient perspectives on generics substitution: what are the challenges for optimal drug use

Challenges to generic medicines utilization in Yemeni healthcare system

Readers interested in contributing a research or perspective paper to GaBI Journal – an independent, peer reviewed academic journal platform – please send us your submission here.

Related articles
Irish doctors’ attitudes towards generics

Irish pharmacists’ perceptions and attitudes towards generics

1.   Dunne SS, Shannon B, Dunne C, Cullen W. Patient perceptions of generic medicines: a mixed-methods study. Patient. 2014;7(2):177-85.

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