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Not long ago, I by chance got my hands on an Issue of the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. You know, looking at things from the other side of the great pond can sometimes be very eye-opening. It sure was for me this time. In the issue, Journalist Katie Holmes wrote a most insightful article entitled: “Why generic drugs don’t get more respect”. For all of you who are not into pharmacy that much, I am neither, a generic is usually a copycat version of a brand-name drug. Before being allowed to sell a generic on the market, the producing companies (in the US and in the European Union) have to give prove that their generic drug is as effective as the original one. The advantage of generics compared to the original pills is simple: While their effectiveness matches the original’s, their price is much lower, “many generic drugs cost pennies a pill”, as Holmes puts it. Instead of buying and prescribing expensive brand products, a generic brings about the same effect and helps saving money for patients and the health system. So it is pretty obvious, that people should demand more generics, doctors should more often prescribe them, and health systems should rather cover costs for generics than for expensive brand pills – so far so good. But hey, life would be too easy if everything would go according to a reasonable idea. So despite most people knowing, that it might be a good thing to do, to use generics more often, Holmes cites researchers, who found quite the opposite to happen. Let’s read what Holmes has to report thereon:

“In 2007, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston surveyed more than 1,000 patients about their views on generic drugs. Participants agreed overwhelmingly that generics were ‘a better value’ than branded drugs, and fewer than 10 percent believed that generic drugs caused more side effects. More than half expressed the opinion that Americans should be taking more of them. But when it came to the patients themselves, only about 38 percent said they preferred generics over brand-name drugs. ‘It’s some bizarre thing that’s in the deepest part of their psyche,” said Dr. William Shrank, the lead author of the study. “They have all the pieces of information to make the right decision, but there’s something that’s holding them back.”

Read the original article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/sunday-review/why-the-bad-rap-on-generic-drugs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Now guess, what could it be, that is holding patients, or more generally speaking: people, back to make the right choice? Well, non-surprisingly, I would suggest that public relations has got something to do with it. Without naming PR, Holmes already points clearly into to that direction, when she cites an article published in Preventing Chronic Disease, wherein researchers suggest some straightforward reasons. Let us read in once more:

“Brand-name drugs were perceived as being of higher quality, or as causing fewer side effects. But other explanations were more complex. Some patients said, they felt forced to ‘settle’ for lesser drugs because they were poor and black. (…) Other studies have shown that people with higher education and income levels are more likely to view generics positively, but scepticism about generic drugs is not limited to the poor and disadvantaged. A recent study found that almost 50 percent of doctors held negative views of the quality of generic medications, and more than a quarter said they would rather not use generics for either themselves or their families.”

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