OBJECTIVES: To review the literature on consumers' knowledge, attitudes and opinions of the use of generic medicines.
METHOD: A narrative review of studies conducted from 1970 to 2008 on consumers perceptions and views towards generic medicines was performed. An extensive literature search was undertaken using indexing services available at the authors' institution library. The following keywords were used for the search: brand, generic, multisource, medications, medicines, drugs, pharmaceuticals and consumers, customers, and patients. Electronic databases searched were Medline, Inside Web, ISI Web of Knowledge, Science Direct, Springer Link, JSTOR, Proquest, Ebsco Host and Google Scholar. These electronic databases were searched for full text papers published in English from 1970 to October 2008.
KEY FINDINGS: Twenty studies were identified. Eleven were from the USA, four were from Europe, two were from Canada and one each was from Australia, Brazil and Malaysia. In general, consumers showed mixed reactions towards the use of generic medicines. This was evident from the divergence of views observed by country development level, consumers' socioeconomic characteristics, drug product characteristics, pharmaceutical reimbursement system, policy environment, contact with health care professionals, past experience with medications, and knowledge of the seriousness of a medical condition.
CONCLUSIONS: Patient confidence and knowledge pertaining to generic medicines use have increased over the past four decades, especially in developed countries. Mass educational efforts, financial incentives, and greater communication among patients and health care professionals were seen as major drivers to the uptake of generic medicines among consumers.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.