Your clinician may at some point suggest switching to generic HIV medication.
When new drugs are developed they’re controlled and protected under a patent. Only the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug is allowed to produce it and supply it in a given region. In the UK a patent can last up to twenty years.
It’s now been twenty years since effective antiretroviral therapy became available in the UK, so a growing number of drugs are coming off patent.
This means that other pharmaceutical companies can make generic versions of these drugs.
Generic drugs are exactly the same substances as the original drugs and are of the same high quality but can be purchased for a much lower price, so the NHS benefits by spending less money on treatment.
The NHS uses generic drugs wherever it can to lower the cost of treating people for a variety of conditions.
Generic drugs are also popular in high street pharmacies and supermarkets: own brand paracetamol or ibuprofen are generic painkillers.
If you’re living with more than one long-term condition and are taking treatment prescribed by the NHS then there’s a good chance that some of your medication is generic.
Generic drugs will have a different name and packaging and the pills can have a slightly different shape or colour, but the active ingredient in the drug is the same.
Always check with your pharmacist if you have any concerns about taking generic drugs.
If you’ve been taking a once-a-day combination pill, switching to generic treatment might mean having to take multiple tablets.
Branded drugs and generic drugs are essentially the same, so you shouldn’t experience any side effects from switching.
If you do feel differently after starting generic treatment and this does not subside quickly, contact your HIV clinician or pharmacist.
You might still have issues with generic treatment, for example:
If this is the case, you should have a conversation with your clinician. It’s crucial that any switch works for you and that it doesn’t affect your adherence.
There’s no reason to be afraid of generic antiretroviral therapy. It works as well as branded treatment and will still suppress the virus in your body, allowing you to live well and not have to worry about passing on HIV once you’re undetectable.
All decisions about your treatment and care should be made in partnership with you and your HIV clinical team.
If your clinician or pharmacist intend to make any changes to your medication, they should discuss this with you and tell you exactly:
If you believe you’re being treated unfairly with any aspect of your HIV treatment or if changes to your treatment we made without your involvement, contact THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
Generic drugs are as effective as the branded versions, but can cost considerably less. HIV clinicians and pharmacists are encouraged to prescribe generic drugs as it frees up NHS resources to pay for other treatments and care.
If you have any questions about your prescribed HIV treatment you should talk to your HIV clinic team.
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This article was last reviewed on
by Kyle Christie
Date due for the next review: 8/8/2020
Content Author: Dr Michael Brady
Current Owner: Clinical services
Patient Information Leaflets: switching medications, (various), HIV Pharmacy Association, 2016
Generic medications, National AIDS Map, 2014
Generic HIV drugs and HIV care in the UK, ibase, September 2016
Generics – the facts, BHIVA conference, Dr Andrew Hill, April 2017
Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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