Generic – an alternative to original drugs

Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients in the same dosage as the original drug, but they cost less. This is because the manufacturer does not have to pay development costs.

What is a generic drug?

A generic drug is a copy of a pharmaceutical product that is already on the market but whose patent protection has expired after 20 years. During these 20 years, pharmaceutical companies have the sole right to sell their own original drug. They set the price to cover the cost of development and research and to generate a profit. After this period, other pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to copy the drug and produce imitation products based on the research findings on the original product, which now have to be released. Generic drugs are equivalent to the original in terms of quantity, dosage, composition and formulation.

Why are generics cheaper?

When a drug’s patent expires, other manufacturers are allowed to produce copycat drugs, so-called generics. These manufacturers have no research and development costs, which means the generic can be produced more cheaply than the original drug. You can find an article on this topic in the Sanitas online magazine.

Are the ingredients used in generics exactly the same?

The active ingredients, dosage and form of administration (e.g. pills, drops) are exactly the same as the original drug. Generics may contain different excipients, such as binding agents, flavours or colourings, but these have no pharmacological effect.

Are generics just as effective as original drugs?

Yes, because generics are equivalent to the original drug in their mode of action as they contain the same active ingredient.

As a rule, it is possible to switch from an original drug to a generic without any problems. Caution is recommended when changing for some anti-epileptic drugs, psychiatric drugs and in case of intolerances or allergies to certain excipients (for example lactose or sweeteners). If you want to switch from an original drug to a generic, you should talk to your doctor or a pharmacist.

How safe are generics? Do generic drugs have side effects?

Generics are just as safe as original drugs. All medicines available in Switzerland are tested by the Swissmedic authorisation and supervisory authority. Generics are approved based on the same criteria for the approval of original drugs.

How can I find generics?

Sanitas offers a fully comprehensive directory of all original drugs and generics available in Switzerland. You will find the generic search here.

Where can I order generics?

You can buy generics instore or order them online from any pharmacy.

How high is the copayment for generics?

The copayment for generics is usually 10%. It is 40% for original drugs. So, if you buy generics you will definitely save money. First, because the generic drug is cheaper than the original. And second, because the copayment is lower.

How high is the copayment for your medicine?

Find out yourself using the Sanitas generics search.