Generic vs Branded Medication – What’s the Difference?

Choosing medicine isn’t always the easiest task, especially when you need a fast solution to a medical problem and you’re faced with loads of options. Often, people see a recognisable brand and go for it without considering the price, but what if you could buy the exact same treatment for a lot less?

Well, you can. It might come as a shock to some people, but it’s something we do in our everyday lives with other products, especially during the weekly shop. Here’s an analogy:

Let’s say you’re doing your weekly shop and you’re trying to decide which pack of digestive biscuits to get. You see two packets next to each other, one is the supermarket’s own-brand, and one is a very well-known brand. Looking at the prices, the own-brand biscuits cost 38p, whilst the known and loved brand costs £1.40. You have a look at the ingredients and notice that they’re exactly the same. Which ones would you buy?

branded vs generic biscuit price

Now let’s look at the same situation but applying it to medication. Let’s say you’re looking for a drug that’ll help to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra (branded) is a household name. Most people know what it is and what it does, and that’s why people trust it, but then you have sildenafil. You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of sildenafil, but it’s actually the active ingredient of Viagra. Both of them work in exactly the same way. Let’s have a closer look:


You’ll often find that a manufacturer will patent a branded version of a drug, as Pfizer did with Viagra. When the patent runs out, other manufacturers are free to produce generic versions of the same medicine. To comply with drug regulations, all versions of a medicine must be made to the same standard, meaning that they have to medically be the exact same drug. In a vast majority of circumstances, the only difference between a branded medicine and its generic counterpart is the price tag. In fact, all branded versions of medicine have to have the name of the active ingredient on the box. This is how you can tell what the generic version is.

Viagra, Sildenafil highlighted


So let’s look at the prices of Viagra and Sildenafil online.

Branded Viagra vs generic Sildenafil

For a pack of 4 25mg Viagra tablets, you can expect to pay £39.99

For the same amount and dosage of generic sildenafil, you only pay £9.99, saving a full £30.

This might leave you asking “why do people still buy the branded versions?”


Most of the time, it’s about trust. Although we’ve compared medicine to digestive biscuits, buying prescription drugs is often far more important to people than which biscuit they have with their brew. Your health is the most important thing you have, and if people recognise a reputable brand, they’re likely to trust it. However, when they’re faced with a cheaper alternative, it might spark questions such as “why is it so much less?” or “are they made with sub-standard ingredients?”.

The truth of the matter is that with branded medicines, you’re often only paying extra for the name. However, there is something that you need to be aware of. When you order generic medicine online, the manufacturer might change, so one month you might order a generic medicine, but the next time you order, the packaging might look completely different. This is nothing to worry about. This is always a case of it being the exact same medicine, just supplied from a different manufacturer. But you can rest assured that you’ll still be getting the exact same drug.


Sometimes you'll order generic medication that might arrive in different packaging to the one shown on the website. This is because we order medicines from different suppliers. While the box and actual tablets might look different from what you received last time, it's still the same medicine, so don't worry. Let's say you've ordered some dihydrocodeine.

Dihydrocodeine comparisons

This image demonstrates just some of the variation you might find when you order generic medication. However, if you look at the boxes closer, you'll find that they have the same medication name, same dosage, and even the same amount of tablets in each pack. You can rest assured that as long as the information on the box matches your order, you've received the right medication regardless of its packaging.