1549 views last update:7 Aug 2012

Generic vs non-generic micro feed additives

Dr Hinner Köster. Director - Animate Animal Health
A while ago I discussed the approach companies often take by promoting their micro feed additives based on whether they are classified as “non-generic” compared to “generic” products. I would like to elaborate a little more on this as my increased involvement in this industry surprised me about the general lack of knowledge that exists when it comes to evaluating the purchasing of the right product.

If you go back you will see my discussion on what the term “generic” actually refers to in the context of certain products used in the animal health and production industry and how one should view the actual differences when referring to products as either “generic” or “non-generic”. Also, how the EU for example deals with this responsibly.
The arguments different companies or sales people sometimes use to differentiate and justify the use of their micro feed additive products, remains interesting but often farfetched. Even more so when it is exclusively based on the fact that their molecule, and thereby product, is the original discovered version of that product. They then claim it should automatically be regarded as superior and the only end product containing that molecule that is trustworthy to use and justifies a premium over all non-original or generic (copied) versions of that product.
The fact is that many (but not all) original molecules are easy to copy and manufacture. If the original developed (non-generic) molecule and its use has been successful, and once its patent expires, other companies will take advantage of the success of that molecule. In most parts of the world companies thriving on copying others have the advantage of using the IP originally gained through an expensive and tedious R&D and registration process to fast track, at low cost, the commercial process of a so-called copied or generic molecule. The generic product industry has certainly ensured that the use of most micro feed additives has become more cost effective and therefore more profitable.
Generic products need to however also be scrutinized properly, as a highly competitive market has lead to the entry of less expensive but often lower quality products, mainly from mass production plants in certain parts of the world. Full traceability remains an important factor to ensure human and animal health and welfare. This, together with accredited and therefore trusted quality assurance programs, reduces the risk of the presence of dangerous contaminants and out of spec feed additives that can enter the food chain and threaten human- and animal health and welfare. 
In my earlier blog I also touched on the importance of the specific production process of micro feed additives, and in particular the physical properties of the end product for it to qualify being of high consistent quality. Again I want to emphasize how crucial factors such as particle size, mixing properties, stability, and degree of dustiness are to ensure that a similar molecule, but differently processed end product, could show performance of superior quality. That’s what it’s all about, and if a generic product is produced through newer and superior processing technologies, it could perform better than the original developed/discovered product with the same molecule. It is factors such as these that users of such products need to make themselves aware of and evaluate before they take purchasing decisions based on cheap sales talk.
Good quality micro feed additive products should at least be granulated in some form. Historically, “simple mixing” was the only method used to manufacture feed additives. With simple mixing most of the active ingredient however is still exposed to environmental factors and dust from the feed additive consists largely of the active ingredient.
The need to protect active ingredients by covering it with a carrier and thereby incorporating them within a granule led to quite a few patents regarding granulation processes to protect these active ingredients. Although one may find bio-efficacy differences among the same molecules, proper granulation and product characteristics of the end product is probably considered the most important criterion that nowadays differentiates different micro feed additive products. Therefore it has since evolved into a science of its own with many different granulation methods currently available. However, even different granulation technologies may have different qualities and should be carefully evaluated when procuring the ideal micro feed additive end products.

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