About Generic Drugs

The generic pharmaceutical industry

The Canadian generic pharmaceutical industry contributes not only to the health of Canadians but also to the Canadian economy as a whole.

Brand name drugs sold in Canada are not always manufactured in Canada. Generic drugs sold in Canada, by contrast, are mostly Canadian made. This makes them considerably better for the Canadian economy - a major saving at every level.

In 2010 alone, Canada's healthcare system saved more than $2.6 billion through the use of generic pharmaceuticals.


What you should know about generic pharmaceuticals

  • All drugs sold in Canada, whether generic or brand name, must be approved by Health Canada's Therapeutics Products Directorate (TPD) or the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD). They must also meet strict guidelines established by Canada's Food and Drug Act and Regulations.
  • In terms of quality, purity, efficacy and safety, generic drugs and their brand name equivalents are comparable. The big difference is affordability. Generic drugs are typically less expensive.  
  • The fillers (known as excipients or non-medicinal ingredients) used to produce generics and brand name drugs are selected from a limited number of available products and in many cases, come from the same suppliers. A generic drug will have a different name and may look a little different than its brand name equivalent. It is, however, used to treat the same conditions and will have the exact same efficacy and safety.
  • The application process to get market authorization to sell a generic drug in Canada requires manufacturers to prove that their drug is as safe and effective as its brand name equivalent. Provincial Ministries of Health also require proof that the active ingredients are of the same quality as the brand name equivalent and dissolved and absorbed in the body in the same manner as the brand name equivalent. 
  • There are a number of independent companies in Canada that manufacture generic drugs. Relying on advanced scientific and manufacturing technologies, these companies not only produce less expensive, generic versions of brand name pharmaceuticals but also fine chemicals, non-prescription and private label medications, and other innovative products.
  • Generic drugs are making a real difference to Canadian healthcare. Over 42% of all prescriptions now filled in Canada are of the generic variety, saving Canadians many millions of dollars annually.
  • Generic drugs should be used as recommended. Before taking any medication, it is essential to follow a doctor's and/or pharmacist's instructions to the letter. It is also important to read the labels and contact your health care professional if you have any questions.

You have expired or unused medications? If so, do not dispose them in the garbage, or pour them down sewers and drains. Please consult the Canada Health Product Stewardship Association website and inform yourself of where you can return these medications in your province. Drugs covered under this stewardship program are:

•             All prescription drugs

•             Over-the-counter medications in oral dosage form (including pills and liquids).

•             Natural health products in oral dosage form (including pills and liquids).