Are generics just as good as the brand-name drugs?

December 19, 2018

Myth: Brand-name drugs are safer and more effective than generic drugs.

Fact: Generic drugs are as safe and effective as brand-name drugs. In fact, they are equivalent to the brand version in dosage, safety, strength, quality, the way they work and the way they’re taken. 1

Brand-name and generic drugs have one important thing in common: they’re designed to improve our health. And the big difference between these drugs is the cost. To help manage drug costs while ensuring you and your family have access to appropriate drug therapy, your benefits plan includes mandatory generic substitution.

What is a generic drug?

Generics are similar, not identical, to brand-name drugs.

When a new drug is developed, found to be safe and effective, and finally approved, it’s usually patented. The patent protects the new drug from being copied for a period of 20 years. The new drug is marketed and sold only by the pharmaceutical company that developed it. When the patent-protected period ends, other companies can produce and sell the same drug as generic equivalents. Because the brand-name drug has already been proven, companies can save research and development costs and afford to charge less for the generic drug.

There may be many generic versions of the brand-name drug. Next time you are prescribed a drug by your doctor or visit your pharmacist to fill a prescription, consider asking the following questions:

  • Is this prescription for a generic drug?
  • Is there a generic version of my drug available?
  • Can I substitute my drug with the generic version?
  • How much will I save under my plan if I switch to a generic drug?

Win-win situation: Your plan and generic drugs

With mandatory generic substitution in your drug plan, any prescribed drug cost cannot be more than the price of the lower cost alternative drug (generic drug).

  • If you are prescribed a brand-name drug, and there is no generic or interchangeable drug, your plan will reimburse you the cost of the brand-name drug.
  • If there is a generic drug and you choose to buy the brand-name drug, your plan will reimburse you the cost of the generic drug only.

In some instances, you may experience an adverse reaction to the generic drug, or it is therapeutically ineffective. When this happens, medical evidence can be submitted to support why the brand-name drug is being prescribed. To get approved for a brand-name drug, you need to complete the Request for Approval of Brand-Name Drug form (, have it signed by your doctor and return it to the address on the form. If approved, you will be paid back the cost of the brand-name drug.

Check your benefits booklet to learn more about your drug coverage or call OTIP Benefits Services at 1-866-783-6847.

The Safety and Effectives of Generic Drugs, Government of Canada,, 2012

ETFO Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT). All Rights Reserved | Privacy and Terms of Use