What’s the score with generic medication?

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Generic Medications – FAQ’s

HIV positive patients are being informed about generic medications at their latest appointments. It is understandable that those on effective treatment for their HIV are concerned about the effects that changing medications may have on their health. We at Brigstowe want to make sure you have answers to your questions, to make sure you are confident about the changes that are coming.

What does generic mean?
Generic medications are non-branded versions of previously trademarked drugs. Drug companies have exclusive rights to provide drugs they develop for certain time periods, giving them full control over supply and pricing. After this exclusive period, other companies can produce medications with the same active ingredients. These are generic medications. For example, ibuprofen is the generic name of a common painkiller. There are many branded versions of ibuprofen, such as Nurofen and Hedex. However, it is also sold under the generic name ibuprofen, but made by different manufacturers, such as Boots or Tesco. They can cost significantly less than branded treatments and allow treatments to be more available than ever.

Do generics increase my risks of side effects?
The active ingredients in generics are the same, so it is very unlikely that any additional side-effects will be experienced. There is no reliable evidence that suggests that there are any additional risks of side-effects related to any of the generic drugs currently in use for HIV treatment.

Are the NHS doing this to save money?
Yes, they are, but this is not a bad thing. The NHS commitment is to provide the most effective medications for patients. Where two options are just as effective, they will choose the lower cost option unless there is a clinical need to do otherwise. This is because generic medicines are usually as effective as the branded versions, but can cost up to 80% less. This frees up NHS resources to pay for other treatments.

Am I affected by the change?
Your consultants at Southmead will discuss it with you. It is likely to affect you over the next year (2016/2017) if you are currently on Atripla, Triumeq, Viramune, Kivexa, Eviplera and Truvada, all of which are now available, or soon to be available, in generic forms.
• If you are on Atripla, the switch is already taking place, and you will be taking Truvada and generic Efavirenz,
• If you are on Triumeq, the switch will be taking place from December 2016, and you will be taking a combination Lamuvidine & Abacavir tablet, and a dolutegravir pill,
• If you are taking Viramune, the switch to the generic nevirapine will be taking place from February/March 2017,
• If you are taking Truvada or Eviplera the switch is likely to take place from July 2017.

What will these changes mean to me?
As the active ingredients in generics are the same, they should be equally effective. If you currently have an undetectable viral load and continue to take your medications correctly, you will maintain an undetectable viral load, and you are very unlikely to have any new side-effects from the pills.
You may find that your medication now comes as two pills instead of one. This is because the single-pill regimes are branded, and like all branded goods, cannot be copied. You may need to plan around taking two pills, rather than one, as this may mean that you will need to remember to bring both medications with you when you are away from home.
If you are concerned about any of these changes, feel free to get in touch with us at Brigstowe, or speak to your clinic at Southmead Hospital. Don’t be worried or scared about asking questions, this is your health, and your treatment, and we are here to support you.

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