How do customers and pharmacists experience generic substitution?

Liz Gill, Anu Helkkula, Nicola Cobelli, Lesley White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose ' The substitution of generic prescription medicines for branded medicines is being practiced in most westernised countries, with evidence of a strong focus on evaluating and monitoring its economic impacts. In contrast, the purpose of this paper is to explore the generic substitution experience of customers and pharmacists in a pharmacy practice setting. Design/methodology/approach ' The study applied a phenomenological method using the narrative inquiry technique combined with critical event analysis, in order to understand the generic medicine experience as perceived by customers and pharmacists as key substitution actors. Interviews were conducted with 15 pharmacists and 30 customers in Australia, Finland and Italy, using a narrative inquiry technique combined with critical events and metaphors. Findings ' The findings show that customers, with poor awareness of generic prescription medicine when offered as a substitute, were likely to become confused and suspicious. Pharmacists related how they felt challenged by having to facilitate generic substitution by educating unaware customers, in isolation from both the prescribing doctor and the government/insurer. They also experienced frustration due to the mistrust and annoyance their customers displayed. Social implications ' The findings suggest that to increase generic substitution, open dialogue is paramount between all the participants of this service network, along with the development of targeted promotional materials. Originality/value ' Little is known about how customers and pharmacists experience the service phenomenon of generic medicine substitution. This paper explores how the key actors at the point of substitution make sense of the process. Additionally, the methodology provides a technique for obtaining a deeper understanding of both the customer and pharmacist experience of genericmedicine, along with insights into how the uptake of generic medicine might be improved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-395
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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