We get this question a lot from guys looking for effective hair loss treatments: What is the difference between Propecia vs. generic finasteride? Is one better than the other?
The short answer is that they’re virtually identical except for one factor: price. Generic finasteride is much cheaper than Propecia—and it’s just as effective.
This question comes from a lack of understanding about the difference between generic vs. brand name drugs in Canada and how they’re regulated. In this article, we’ll lay all that out for you, explaining:
- The general difference between generic vs. brand name drugs in Canada.
- The difference between generic vs. brand name hair loss drugs like Propecia (generic finasteride), Arovart (dutasteride), and Rogaine (minoxidil).
- The evidence for the effectiveness of generic finasteride and other hair loss medications.
- What you can do if you’re starting to see hair loss.
Generic vs. brand name drugs: what’s the difference?
To be approved in Canada, a generic drug manufacturer must demonstrate that the generic version is pharmaceutically equivalent to its brand name version. That means that it must:
- contain the identical medicinal ingredients,
- contain the medicinal ingredients in the same amounts, and
- come in a similar dosage form.
There can be differences between generics and brand name medications—for example, some generic manufacturers might use different non-medical ingredients, or make the medications look slightly different. But, if manufacturers use any different ingredients, they must demonstrate that these do not affect safety, quality, or effectiveness.
In other words, Health Canada ensures that generic medications are equally as effective as their brand name equivalent.
If the generics are not as effective as their brand name counterparts, they may not be sold in Canada.
Why are generic medications cheaper?
To understand the difference in price between generic vs. brand name medications, it’s important to understand the process of developing medications and getting them approved in Canada.
The drug development process
Basically, it’s a long—and expensive—process.
- A company first spends years researching and developing a medication that they think will be useful for treating a particular condition.
- The company then must do a lot of high-quality research to show that the medication is effective and safe.
- Then the company has to get it approved so it can be sold in Canada.
It can take many years to go through that process from start to finish and it can be very expensive. It’s also risky because the company doesn’t know if the treatment will be effective and if their investment will pay off.
But developing new medications can be rewarding: the company may produce the first treatment available for a particular health condition.
Drug patents last for 20 years in Canada
Because it is such a long and expensive process to develop a drug and get it through the regulatory process, Canada protects drug patents for 20 years. That means that no other companies can make the same drug during that time.
This gives the company that created the drug a kind of monopoly on the market for the first few years. They are able to make a large profit on those medications. This incentivizes them to continue to develop new medications.
During this process, they usually price their medication relatively high.
Generic drug development
After the 20 years of patent protection, Canada allows other companies to make and sell drugs that are identical to the brand name drugs. These are “generic drugs”. Generic drug manufacturers have a much shorter approval process because the drug has already been shown to work.
But there still is an approval process. Generic drug manufacturers have to:
- Create the new generic drug
- Design and conduct studies to test the new generic drug to make sure it’s effective
- Get approval from Health Canada for the new drug
There are still very strict regulations that generic drug manufacturers must follow, but this process tends to be a lot shorter than for the original drug developers because most of the research has already been done by the original drug developers. It’s less research-intensive.
Why are generic medicines cheaper?
Because it’s less research-intensive, it’s much less expensive to develop and sell generic drugs. Those cost savings are then passed on to the consumer in the form of much lower prices.
Harvard Health estimates that generic drugs cost about 80% to 85% less than brand name versions of the same drug.
Propecia vs. generic finasteride—is one better?
Propecia is the brand name for 1 mg generic finasteride pills. These are very effective hair loss treatments. They both have the same active ingredient (finasteride) and work by inhibiting the formation of DHT, which is a body chemical that is responsible for male pattern hair loss.
If we compare Propecia vs. generic finasteride… is one better?
No. Generic finasteride has been found by health Canada to be just as effective as Propecia—they’re bioequivalent. If they weren’t, generic finasteride would not have been approved for sale in Canada.
Other generic hair loss treatments include:
- Dutasteride. Dutasteride is the generic version of Avodart. Dutasteride is another very effective treatment for hair loss and is usually prescribed for individuals whose hair loss is more advanced. Like finasteride, dutasteride is sold as an oral tablet.
- Minoxidil. Minoxidil is the generic version of Rogaine. It’s sold as a topical liquid, cream, or foam and is applied directly to the scalp. Research has shown that it is an effective treatment for hair loss, but that it doesn’t work as well as finasteride or dutasteride.
How do I get Propecia or finasteride in Canada?
Finasteride and dutasteride are both available with a prescription. Minoxidil is available over-the-counter or from online hair loss clinics in Canada.
If you’re noticing thinning hair, we recommend seeing a health care provider who is an expert in hair loss. Your health care provider will be able to point you towards the most appropriate treatment for you.
And we recommend that you address it as soon as possible: the earlier you treat your hair loss, the better.
Our clinic offers online hair loss consultations. Our health care providers are experts in the field and can help you find the most effective treatment for you.
If minoxidil is appropriate, we can ship that directly to you—no prescription required. If finasteride or dutasteride is appropriate, we can write you a prescription and ship it directly to your door or to a local pharmacy for pick-up.
We also offer brand name hair loss treatments like Propecia, Avodart, and Rogaine, but we usually recommend the generic versions because they are less expensive and just as effective.
We save you money by providing high-quality generic brands at a much lower price.
Propecia vs. generic finasteride: the takeaway
Generic medications are exactly as effective as brand name medications. They must be—Health Canada would not approve them for sale if they were not pharmaceutically equivalent.
While generic brand medications may have slightly different non-medical ingredients, which may make them look slightly different, they must have the exact same active ingredients at the same doses as their brand name equivalents.
The only real difference between brand name and generic medications is the price.
So save your money and choose generic medications when they are available.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.