Nowadays you hear about it all the time on TV, sui social, by radio of equivalent drugs.

What is meant by equivalent drug? Because it is defined as such? There is currently much to discuss on this issue, let's try to put some order.

What is an equivalent drug?

The main feature of the equivalent drug is to have the active ingredient ( the substance on which the curative activity of the drug depends) in the same pharmaceutical form as the original drug (originator), what varies are the excipients, or other elements found within the drug in its finished form.

They are the excipients (substances without therapeutic properties, but necessary to facilitate the intake or make the drug available to the body) which can cause allergic reactions. Very often they do not know each other in their entirety and therefore it becomes unpredictable to know if they can alter some reactions within our body.

A parameter of an equivalent drug that should not be underestimated is its bioavailability, or the time required to make the active ingredient available to the body. If the bioavailability the equivalent fluctuates between 3 and the 5% it can be said that there are no significant variations from the original.

Pay attention to the origin

A relevant factor ,but often underestimated, is the manufacturing site of the drug. Due to the high management and production costs, most pharmaceutical companies have moved their production plants abroad; this has meant that often the origin of the drug and which excipients are included are not known.

Instead, equivalent drugs produced in Italy are subjected to checks by AIFA (Italian Medicines Agency) during all the various steps of their production; this provides a greater guarantee on their safety.

On the other hand, those produced abroad will undergo procedures and controls that are totally different from those in Italy, not always allowing to ascertain their real effectiveness.

Because an equivalent drug is cheaper?

An equivalent drug arises when the patent of the original drug expires, making the cost of the product and the search for the active ingredient decay. This explains the drop in price.

To date, the use of this type of drug proves to be cheaper for both patients, both for the SSN (National Health System) which thus tends to concentrate economic expenditure on more specific and expensive drugs.

In light of this information, let us always remember that even an equivalent drug is still a drug (every possible abuse instead of solving a problem risks generating others) and the excipients used or the origin of these may change (albeit significantly) the properties of the drug; for this reason, the advice to inquire about these characteristics when evaluating the purchase is always valid.

[A. L. A.]