Generic vs Brand Name Drugs. Focus on the Active Ingredient!


What is the difference between branded products and generic ones? Branded products sometimes get the bad rap as they cost considerably more, sometimes even double the price, versus the generic alternative.

On the other hand, some people claim that branded products are more effective and you get the quality assurance from big corporations.

But do they really work differently, when the active ingredients and the dosages are the same for branded products and their generic counterpart?

What are active ingredients and how do you read the label to note the important components in a product?

As a responsible consumer, why should you focus on the active ingredients and not the brand? In this article, we explore the answers to these questions.


What are Active Ingredients

Active Ingredients, simply put, are the ingredients found in pharmaceutical drugs that are considered “active” – these are the functioning components of the medicine that make it work.

This term may also be referred to as API, short for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient, of which some medications may contain more than one depending on what the particular use of each drug may be.


Other terms that may be used when referring to API’s are Bulk Active (which is used particularly for pharmaceutical medications) and Active Substance (which refers to natural products).

It should be worth noting that active ingredients may be found in both pharmaceutical medications, as well as herbal ones.

Part of the reason for this clarification is because some people have the tendency to think that the phrase “active ingredient” only refers to man-made components, which isn’t always the case.

As mentioned, there are also natural active ingredients which are actual plant substances.

assorted medication tables and capsulesAPI’s these days are highly regulated and have to undergo various testing, follow strict guidelines, and pass multiple inspections in order to be approved.

This is because these days, most products are manufactured in various places around the world for cheaper costs.

Alongside active ingredients, there are those that are called “inactive” which are used alongside the active ingredients depending on the need of the particular product.

These are not the ones that actually make the medication “actively” work but are required in order to make the “active” ingredient to do its job. An example of this is Advil® which contains 22 mg of sodium, but the actual API used is ibuprofen.


Branding: What it Means and How Companies Use it to Their Advantage

What is “branding,” and why do so many companies use it to their advantage? Branding is basically the foundation of how a company presents itself to customers.

Regardless of whether it is a pharmaceutical company, restaurant, clothing line, or an online e-commerce site, branding comes into place by establishing an unforgettable presence in the mind of the customer.


Depending on the purpose of the business, branding is what will distinguish why they are the better choice than their competitor.

It is how they present themselves as the smarter preference. Even if the company is not actually the best in the field, if they can project their product(s) as such, then their branding is working.

assorted-color pill lot on silver surfaceMany times, companies gain leverage through their advertising and how recognizable they are.

They strive for familiarity, dependency, and trust with their customers. Regardless of what the actual product is, even if it’s expensive or something obscure if it’s advertised well, people will be willing to buy it.

This is precisely why certain pharmaceuticals and other “natural remedy” products are more sellable – the companies that produce them make people believe that their products are better than any other.

Regardless of whether two different companies are actually making the same product, if one has more selling power than the other, the branded products are much more likely to sell their items due to the customer’s belief that it is actually a better product.


Branded VS Generic

When getting into the specifics of what drugs actually contain, Branded items and Generic items may contain the exact same ingredients but may sell at wildly different prices because Branded items are really selling their “name.”


For example, the active ingredient in most insect repellants is N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, otherwise known as DEET.

OFF! Bug Spray is one of the most common bug repellants worldwide, and therefore, people have a tendency to buy this product without thinking twice.

Even if another bug repellant was side-by-side with OFF! containing the same amount of DEET as the latter, the brand familiarity of individuals to OFF! makes them reach for it rather than its generic counterpart.

This is the reason why so many companies put so much time and effort into creating marketing strategies, commercials, logos, and taglines. They aim to instill a sense of trust and reliability that the populace can believe in and depend on.

Therefore, when buying products, it is important to know the following before proceeding:

  • Know that despite the difference in product names or the companies that manufacture them, if each product contains the same active ingredients, they are, in fact, the same.
  • Recognize when two medications are actually different despite how similar they may appear to be. They may look alike and sound alike but are meant to be used for very different reasons.
  • Identify what kind of medicine is actually needed, that the correct active ingredients are found in the medicine and that no allergic reactions may be caused due to any of the ingredients that make up its contents.
  • See whether there are other types of medication that can be used for those particular symptoms.

The most pertinent and basic information to note between Branded and Generic drugs, medications, or products is that Active Ingredients are the actual components of the medication that causes the medicine to perform as it should, while brand names are just what each manufacturer actually names its product.


Actual Products (Popular vs Unpopular)

Some very common examples of this are:

  1. Advil vs Addaprin – Both contain the Active Ingredient Ibuprofen, a drug that treats pain, fever, and inflammation.
  2. Emtrix vs EmoniNail – Both contain the Active Ingredient Undecylenic Acid, used for treating toenail fungus and other fungal skin infections.
  3. Robitussin vs. Mucinex – Both contain the Active Ingredient Pseudoephedrine, used mostly for nasal decongestion.
  4. Secret Deodorant vs Toms of Maine – Both contain the Active Ingredient Aluminum Chlorohydrate, the antiperspirant component of deodorants.


Why Active Ingredients are More Important than Brand Names

After gaining a better understanding of what exactly Active Ingredients are, we can now decipher those choosing items due to their brand is not as important as choosing them because of their ingredients.

old man taking medicine

Most pharmaceutical companies are able to sell their products at a premium because they have made their brand name very popular through great marketing strategies, which obviously convinces customers to buy their products.

Despite that, by being more conscious of Active Ingredients, you can make an educated decision of what products to buy by doing your research and taking a look at each item’s description and ingredient content.

By doing so, you may also save yourself more money by choosing to purchase Generic medications or products, which will, in fact, work just as well as any of their Branded counterparts.

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