Questions about generics

1. What are generics?

«Generics are lower-priced follow-on medicines with proven substances»

When the patent protection of a medicine has expired, a follow-on medicine (= generic product) may be produced. The substance that is used for the generic medicine corresponds to that of the original product. Generics therefore display the same effects as the respective original medicines, but they are significantly cheaper.
2. Are generics equally effective and tolerable as the originals?

«In relation to tolerability and effectiveness, generics are exchangeable with the original»

Swissmedic, the Agency for Therapeutic Products, is responsible for quality monitoring in Switzerland. Like original medicines, generics must also be approved for the market by Swissmedic. For approval, verification is necessary that a generic medicine has the same effect as the original. The quality and safety requirements for generics are the same as for original preparations.
3. Do generics hinder medical research?

«The manufacturers of generics do not in any way hinder research into new substances, medicines or forms of therapy»

The manufacturers of generics offer customers proven medicines at lower prices. In times in which cost pressure is constantly rising in the health sector, generics can contribute to realising savings. The cost reduction in medicine treatment achieved with generics can help medical progress benefitting everyone also in future.
4. Where can I get generics?

«Generics are available from the doctor or at the pharmacy»

Always ask your doctor or pharmacist for generics. It is worth it. Furthermore: you can even ask for a generic product at the pharmacy if your doctor has prescribed an original product. If a generic product with the same effect is available, your pharmacist can issue the lower priced medicine.
5. Against which illnesses are generics available?

«There are generics against many diseases»

There are generics against many illnesses, such as:
    • Pain, rheumatic disorders, sports injuries
    • Cardiovascular diseases, e.g. high blood pressure, arrhythmia, coronary heart disease
    • Fat metabolism disorders
    • Infections such as cold sores, urinary tract infection, respiratory infection, colds, cough, sore throat etc.
    • Skin diseases (acne), fungal infections
    • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, stomach ulcers
    • Mental illness e.g. depression
    • Vitamin and mineral deficiency
    • Diabetes
6. Why are there not generics of all medicines?

«Generics can only be manufactured after the expiry of patent protection»

Patent protection is a legally regulated agreement that protects discoveries and inventions from imitations for a certain period. Owing to this protection, the owner of a patent has the exclusive right for a defined period to use a substance commercially for a medicine and therefore to compensate research costs. After expiry of this period, the substance is available to manufacturers of generics. Only then can low-priced generics of successful medicines be produced.
7. Does the generic product have the same effect as the original?

«Generics contain the same substances as originals»

Generics are made from the same substances as the respective original products. They are also administered in the same manner and quantity: as a tablet, suppository, ointment or injection. Generics are available in the same dosage and are used for the same diseases. Generics often even have advantages compared to the original due to an improvement of the dosage form. Owing to optimisations, a generics tablet can for example be split or swallowed better.


8. Can I switch easily from an original product to a generic product?

«Switching to a generic product is possible in many cases»

For long-term treatment, it is important to consult carefully with a doctor or pharmacist.
Your doctor or pharmacist decides when the switch to a generic medicine can take place and when it is better not to switch. The patient must agree to the switch in all cases, so that successful treatment is ensured: only convinced patients take medicines regularly and do not abort treatment prematurely. Switching to a generic product is especially worth it for the treatment of chronic diseases.
9. How much can I save with generics?

«Generics are 30-70% cheaper than the corresponding originals»

Depending on the medicine, dosage and packet size, the price difference between generic and original products is 30-70%. Generics are used increasingly often in Switzerland and they help to reduce costs in the health sector, without compromising the required therapeutic effect among patients. However, the savings potential is still far from fully exploited.

If generics were used wherever possible instead of original products, around 350 million francs could be saved every year in the Swiss health sector.


10. Why are generics cheaper than originals?

«Substances from proven original products are used for generics»

The development of original medicines is bound up with high research costs. The more expensive sales price of the original is intended to cover the development costs for the manufacturer. After expiry of the patent protection, the substances hitherto only used in the original product may also be used for generics. This means: the substances used in generics are well-researched and have been proven over a long period in daily practice. For this reason, few studies need to be carried out. This makes generics significantly cheaper than originals.