What You Need to Know About Chemical and Biologic Drugs

What you need to know about drugs

It can be hard to find your way when it comes to drugs! Fast-paced industry advances can leave us consumers feeling overwhelmed. Here is some information on the topic that you’ll hopefully find useful.

Drugs can be manufactured in two ways. They may be of chemical or biological origin.

Drugs of chemical origin

  • The active ingredient of these drugs is derived from chemical synthesis, so it originates from lifeless matter.
  • This is currently the most commonly used type of drug.
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) are chemical drugs.

Drugs of biological origin

  • These drugs are derived from living organisms or from their cells.
  • A biologic drug is generally more complex than a chemical drug.
  • Remicade and Inflectra are biologic drugs that are used in the treatment of conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

Are you with me so far? Good, because this is where it gets a little complicated! When a pharmaceutical company launches a new drug, be it one of chemical or biological origin, the drug is patented for a specified period of time.

  • A new chemical drug is referred to as an original chemical drug. Tylenol is an original chemical drug.
  • A new biologic drug is referred to as a reference biologic drug. Remicade is a reference biologic drug.

Once a drug’s patent expires, it can be reproduced or copied. The reproductions or copies are, of course, much more affordable.

  • The copy of an original chemical drug is referred to as a generic drug. Acetaminophen is Tylenol’s generic reproduction.
  • The biosimilar equivalent of a reference biologic drug is referred to as a biosimilar drug. Inflectra, the biosimilar version of Remicade, is used for multiple indications.

Generic and biosimilar drugs are definitely a welcome addition to the market, especially in view of the ever-rising costs of medication. Given Health Canada‘s rigorous standards, you can rely on the effectiveness and quality of generic and biosimilar drugs.
More detailed information on these types of prescription drugs is available on the Health Canada site and at

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