Medicine facts (Part 1): Brand name vs active ingredient

Did you know that it is a common practice for consumers to identify medicines through their brand names instead of their active ingredients? For instance, when you are having a headache, the first pain reliever to cross your mind is most likely Panadol. As a matter of fact, Panadol® (marketed by GlaxoSmithKline) is a brand name whose active ingredient is actually paracetamol.

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In addition, other companies have also marketed paracetamol under different brand names such as Uphamol®, Milidon®, etc. and are often available in different strengths:

(Left image) Different brands of paracetamol: Panadol®, Uphamol® and Milidon® with the same strength i.e. 500 mg
(Right image) Same brand of paracetamol but with different strengths: Uphamol® 500 mg vs 650 mg

It is worth pointing out that paracetamol is only one of the many examples of medicines available in the market with multiple brand names, strengths and sometimes various dosage forms (capsule, tablet, caplet, syrup etc.). As a rule of thumb, it is a good practice to take note of the strength and correct active ingredient (hint: often with the strength stated near it) of your medicine in addition to its brand name:

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This could avoid unnecessary confusion when you have to switch between brands. This is particularly the case if you purchase medicines from different pharmacies or clinics or even in different countries during travel where the brand you are looking for may not be available. Nevertheless, if you are ever in doubt, do not hesitate to ask your doctors or pharmacists who would be more than willing to assist you.

John Tiong
John Tiong

PhD, MPharm, RPh

A pharmacist, pharmacy lecturer and researcher. A critical thinker with fervor for thought sharing.

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