Perceptions of the safety and side effects of generics

Generics/Research | Posted 06/05/2016 post-comment0 Post your comment

A quarter of doctors believe that generics are less safe and cause more side effects than brand-name drugs, according to a study carried out by researchers from New Zealand and the US [1].

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A systematic search of databases (MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Scopus) was carried out in order to identify observational studies published in English between 1980 and 6 September 2015. After screening 2,737 articles, 52 articles were included in the final analysis. The publication dates for these studies ranged from 1987 through 2015 and included data from 27 countries.


More doctors (28.54%) and pharmacists (25.44%) thought that generics were less safe to use than brand-name drugs compared to the general public (17.97%). There was no significant difference between the percentage of doctors and pharmacists that held these beliefs (p = 0.22).

Side effects

Physicians were the most likely to hold negative beliefs that side effects are more frequently caused by generics compared to brand-name drugs, with one in four (24.43%) doctors holding this belief. This was a significantly greater proportion than both patients (18.76%, p = 0.0001) and pharmacists (20.06%%, p < 0.0001). There was no significant difference between the percentage of patients and pharmacists that held these beliefs (p = 0.3934.). 

The authors believe that these findings have important implications for clinical practice, as pharmacists and doctors are in a position where they can easily transmit their expectations about the effectiveness and side effects of generics to the patients under their care.

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

Editor’s comment

Readers interested to learn more about patients’ and physicians’ perceptions of generics are invited to visit to view the following manuscripts published in GaBI Journal:

Perceptions of physicians from private medical centres in Malaysia about generic medicine usage: a qualitative study

Views of physicians and patients with chronic conditions on generic medicines in Greece after the introduction of measures to promote their consumption: findings from a qualitative study

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

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1.    Colgan S, Faasse K, Martin LR, Stephens MH, Grey A, Petrie KJ. Perceptions of generic medication in the general population, doctors and pharmacists: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2015;5:e008915. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008915.

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