Pharmacists’ experiences and attitudes regarding generic drugs and generic substitution: two sides of the coin



Dr Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, Department of Pharmacy, Uppsala University, BMC P.O. Box 580, 751 23 Uppsala, Sweden.




Generic drug substitution reduces costs for medicines, but the downsides include unintentional double medication, confusion and anxiety among patients. Information from pharmacists affects patients’ experiences of substitution with generic drugs. The aim of this study was to explore experiences and attitudes to generic substitution among Swedish community pharmacists.


An interview guide was developed. Semi-structured interviews with community pharmacists were conducted and transcribed verbatim. Analysis was inductive; extracts from the transcripts were compared and combined to form themes and subcategories. Pharmacists from a heterogeneous convenience sample of pharmacies were interviewed until data saturation had been achieved.

Key findings

Sixteen pharmacists were interviewed. Three main themes and twelve subcategories were identified, with the main themes being the role of the pharmacist, pharmacists’ concerns regarding patients, and the generic drug. Pharmacists found it positive that generic substitution decreases the costs for pharmaceuticals but also emphasized that the switch can confuse and worry patients, which could result in less benefit from treatment. Respondents claimed that generic substitution has changed the focus in the pharmacist–patient meeting towards economics and regulations.


According to the interviewed pharmacists generic substitution is not primarily an issue of generic versus brand-name products, but concerns above all the challenges that the switch implies for patients and pharmacists. To prevent known confusion and concerns among patients it is important that community pharmacists acquire the necessary tools and knowledge to manage this situation; pharmacists themselves as well as pharmacy owners and authorities share responsibility for this.