Generic drugs: myths, facts, and limitations


Bioequivalence (BE) has always been an important pharmaceutical area, particularly (but not solely) in Mediterranean region, where the use of generic drugs is a relatively recent development. The lack of new therapeutic molecules has concentrated primary research in the hands of a few large pharmaceutical companies. For smaller companies, this has created opportunities for the development of new formulations of existing drugs (orodispersible tablets that dissolve in the mouth, extended-release tablets, transdermal delivery systems, generic drugs). These applications take advantage of the Abridged New Drug Application (ANDA) procedure, which exempts them from a series of expensive investigations and limits the requirement for clinical testing to bioequivalence trials. Since 1991, bioequivalence trials have been regulated by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) guidelines that provide precise indications on the most specific procedures to be adopted. In spite of these guidelines, however, some aspects of the process have not been fully defined, the most important of which regards the management of endogenous substances. Additional problems are how to manage bioequivalence protocols with drugs that have long half-lives and those whose clearance is characterized by high intrinsic variability. The view that bioequivalence data would be more reliable if they were based on studies in target populations is a myth to be discredited. The present paper reviews issues relative to pharmacokinetics (PK), bioavailability (BA), and bioequivalence, also from an historical viewpoint, and includes a stimulating “questions and answers” section on some key aspects of the bioequivalence of generic drugs.



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Bioequivalence, Bioavailability, Generic drugs, Pharmacokinetics
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How to Cite
Marzo, A., Porro, E., & Barassi, A. (2012). Generic drugs: myths, facts, and limitations. Italian Journal of Medicine, 6(3), 146–152.