Making a medicinewise choice between brands

Following reports the first generic version of atorvastatin will be hitting pharmacy shelves this week, NPS is urging consumers to be medicinewise when making a choice between medicine brands.

NPS CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says there has been a lot of talk in the media recently regarding the different generic options coming to market once Lipitor’s patent expires on May 1 this year.

“Lipitor is one of the most commonly prescribed medicines, with over 10 million prescriptions written every year,” says Dr Weekes.

“As new brands come onto the market, it is likely many people will be offered a choice of different medicine brands. It’s important people know that no matter what brand they choose, if the active ingredient and the size of the dose is the same the medicine will work the same in their body.”

The active ingredient is the chemical in a medicine which makes it work and is usually found on the medicine label or packaging. However, a survey conducted by NPS last year reported around 40% of respondents would not be able to identify it on a medicine packet.

“Some active ingredient names are long, complicated and difficult to pronounce. Others sound similar to the brand name of a medicine and some sound nothing like it at all. Adding to the confusion, some brand names look and sound similar yet have totally different active ingredients and are used to treat completely different conditions,” says Dr Weekes.

“All this confusion can lead to people making mistakes with their medicines, such as accidentally double dosing, taking something they are allergic to or mixing medicines which shouldn’t be mixed. Such mistakes can be costly, but most are avoidable. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor or pharmacist who will be able to help you make the right choice.”

With any medicine, making the decision to change brands can have both benefits and risks. For some people – such as those with allergies to gluten or lactose which may be added as fillers in tablet manufacturing – switching brands may not be an option.  If you are unsure you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before making the decision to change.

NPS has a number of resources to help consumers make a safe choice between medicine brands, including:

  • A downloadable and printable Medicines List to help consumers keep track of all the medicines they are using, with important details such as the name and active ingredient.
  • An iPad and iPhone version of the Medicines List with scheduling and alarms to help remind you to take your medicines
  • An online Medicine Name Finder which helps you find the active ingredient(s) in your medicines.

For further information, visit


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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