Free card pays the difference between brand name and generic drugs

Various pills

A free card from innoviCares available online to all Canadians pays for the difference between over 100 brand name and generic drugs. Generic drugs are copies of brand name drugs produced after the original patent is expired.

Generic and brand name drugs have identical active ingredients, and generic drugs must meet Health Canada’s standards for bioequivalence. According to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health the active ingredients are the same but the inactive ingredients (excipients) in brand name and generic drugs may differ. This is only important in rare cases when you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of the excipients. The generic product may also be slightly different in shape, or markings.

However, in some cases, patients who are used to taking a name brand drug are resistant to shifting to the generic drug when it goes off patent. In other situations, the patient’s condition may respond better to the name brand drug.

The biggest difference is cost. Generic drugs are generally less expensive than brand name comparators because generic drug companies do not have the expense of researching and developing a new chemical entity.

Unless the prescription is marked “no substitution”, your pharmacist will typically dispense the generic instead of the brand name drug. Even where the doctor writes “no substitution” on the script, where your drug plan will only pay for the generic drug, the pharmacist can explain the cost differential and ask if you want to try the generic.

The innoviCares card covers over 100 conditions and new drugs are being added all the time. The price differential is being covered by the 18 drug companies signed on to the program. Because of strict rules for drug pricing in Canada and international contracts, pharmaceutical companies cannot simply drop the price of brand name drugs when they go off patent. This is their way to retain at least part of their market share with respect to these medications.

You are eligible for the program whether or not you are a member of a public or private drug plan (i.e. employer-sponsored or the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan for seniors). You can leave a copy of the card on file with your pharmacist and in cases where you or your physician request a brand name drug, innoviCares will adjudicate at source and you will not have to pay the price differential.

Employers sponsoring drug plans can communicate the innoviCares program so employees can obtain a card if they believe this additional level of coverage is necessary. Some employers like FedEx and Telex have integrated the innoviCares card into their workplace plan.




  1. Hi Sheryl

    FYI There is another company that offers a card for different drugs

    Take care,


    • Thanks Suzanne. I’ll check it out.

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