Objective: To examine the attitude of patients towards generic drugs and prescriptions containing generic drugs as an alternative to brand-name products, with a special focus on information on patients attitude to generic drugs provided by their general practitioners (GPs).
Methods: A total of 804 patients in 31 general practices were surveyed using a self-questionnaire. The influence of age, sex, education, disease, knowledge of generic drugs, experience with generic substitution and information provided by the GP on patient attitudes towards generic drugs and substitutions were examined.
Results: Nearly two thirds of the patients (509/804) stated that they knew of the difference between brand-name drugs and generics; of these, one third were not satisfied with the information given by their GPs and 37% of patients expressed general skepticism towards generic drugs because of their lower price. This attitude was more frequent among those who felt that generic prescribing was "invented" to solve the financial crisis in the German health insurance system at their expense (odds ratio (OR): 6.2; 95% confidence interval: 4.0 - 9.8) and those who had not been confronted personally with a generic substitution (OR: 1.8; 1.3 3.0). Patients who had been skeptical when first confronted with a generic substitution were more frequently among those who considered inexpensive drugs to be inferior (OR: 4.5; 2.0 10.4) and they were frequently not satisfied with the information on substitution provided by their GP (OR: 2.7; 1.2 - 5.9).
Conclusion: GPs are in an ideal position to inform their patients adequately about the equivalence of brand-name and generic drugs. However, the patient view that inexpensive drugs must be inferior may be difficult to rectify in the short term.