On branded drugs.

I went shopping yesterday…


Anti-allergy meds

On the left, a box of 14 generic allergy relief tablets, each containing 10mg Cetirizine HCl and Lactose – costing £1.

On the right, a box of 14 branded allergy relief tablets, each containing 10mg Cetirizine HCl and Lactose – costing £5.67. In a sale. Down from £7.57.

The active ingredients are  identical. The evidence for the efficacy of the active ingredients is identical. So how can companies justify charging 7.5 times more? I understand and acknowledge that effective marketing and other psychological factors might lead to a more effective placebo component of any clinical effect [1][2] – but a 7.5 fold increase in effectiveness?

The chemical structure of cetirizine.

The chemical structure of cetirizine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we assume that the sellers make some sort of profit on the generic, then someone must be making a huge profit on the branded anti-allergy meds. Which seems a little immoral. If you can offer people relief for 7.1p per day, why charge as much as 54p per day?

Whether or not this pricing is down to the pharmaceutical industry I cannot be sure – but big pharma don’t have the greatest public image at the moment – and examples like this sat on the shelf of your local supermarket perhaps serve as another example of why.

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2 Responses to On branded drugs.

  1. dr*T says:

    Why immoral? People have the choice to buy either – for some people, the 8-fold price difference is worth it. There is confidence in a brand and people will pay for it. They can charge what they like, and providing it isn’t a monopoly (clearly isn’t) then the customer will decide the ‘right’ price.

    • xtaldave says:

      I see your point. I suspect some folks might just look at the price difference and assume that the generic product is inferior, and pay for the branded product on the assumption that they are getting a superior, more effective product. Which they aren’t.

      It’s almost like they are relying on a customer’s failure to read the small print to make a sale, because there is no good medical/scientific reason to choose the branded product over the generic.

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