Substitution

17 June 2019

When you buy a prescription medicine from your pharmacy, the medicine you receive can sometimes look different than the one you usually get, or the name may be different from what your doctor has written on the prescription. This is because the pharmacy must always offer you the cheapest alternative to what you have been prescribed, so you can save money. The medicine works in the same way, only it is cheaper.

Same effect and safety

Medicines consist of one or more active substances and some excipients. While the active substance is responsible for the therapeutic effect on a given disease or specific symptoms, the excipients give the medicine colour, form and taste.  When the pharmacist offers you a cheaper alternative to what you have been prescribed, the active substance is always the same, but the excipients could be different. 

All medicines must meet the same requirements for efficacy, safety and quality regardless of the name, price, form and taste.

Why are you offered the cheapest medicine?

When a pharmaceutical company develops a new medicine, it is called the original, and the medicine is usually “protected” for a period of 10 years.  This means that no other companies are permitted to “copy” the medicine and attempt to make the same medicine at a reduced cost. When the “protection” has expired, other companies are allowed to “copy” the medicine and manufacture so-called generic medicines, i.e. medicines that produce the same therapeutic effect on the same disease just like the original. When there are several versions of the same medicine – original and generic products – they compete against each other, and the price of the medicine therefore drops.

In this way, you and our society save money on medicine expenditure.

You decide

The pharmacy must always offer you the cheapest alternative to your medicine – unless your doctor has indicated otherwise on the prescription. When the pharmacist offers you a cheaper alternative to your medicine, you can always decline. You decide if you want the cheaper of more expensive version of the medicine. Which one is cheapest can change each time you go to the pharmacy to buy your medicine, the reason being that medicine prices change every other week.

Good advice for medicine users

  • Memorise the name of the active substance contained in your medicine.
  • Don’t remove the label from the package. It tells you which active substance is contained in the medicine.
  • Always tell your doctor if you have allergies.
  • Ask your pharmacy or doctor if you are unsure about how to take the medicine.

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