Pharmacokinetics and Generic Drug Switching: A Regulator's View

P.J. Glerum, C. Neef, D.M. Burger, Y. Yu, M. Maliepaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There appears to be a mismatch between the assumed therapeutic equivalence of generic drugs, their interchangeability, and reported clinical discomfort following generic drug use and drug switches. In this article, we describe why we are of the opinion that the current regulatory approach to the evaluation of generic drugs based on average bioequivalence is sufficient to expect therapeutic equivalence in the clinical setting. This has often been debated, specifically as adverse drug reactions related to generic drug switches are regularly reported. We agree that clinical discomfort during a bioequivalent drug switch may indeed be caused by different exposures to the active substance. However, this difference in exposure is not a result of the characteristics or quality of generic drugs; it is caused by the pharmacokinetic within-subject variability of the active substance, i.e., the variability on the bioavailability of the active substance, when comparing two occasions of administration of the same drug product, to the same patient. Therefore, reported clinical discomfort following generic drug use and drug switches does not warrant a change in the regulatory approach to the evaluation of the bioequivalence of generic drugs. Switching from a brand-name drug to currently approved generic drugs, or between different generic drugs, will in principle result in comparable exposure, within boundaries determined by the within-subject variability of the pharmacokinetics of the active substance involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1069
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • bioequivalence
  • brand-name drugs
  • formulations
  • interchangeability
  • products

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