The paper aimed to apprehend the social representations of the generic drug by drug users, establishing mechanisms that could be used to improve the policy of this type of medicines in Brazil. The Theory of Social Representations was employed as theoretic-methodological support. The research was done from April, 2002 through February, 2003 in the city of Natal/RN with 116 drug users approached at pharmacies and/or drugstores. The instrument of data collection was a semistructured interview with a tape recorder. The data analysis was performed with the aid of both the ALCESTE 4.5 program and the content analysis recommended by Laurence Bardin. The ALCESTE isolated 5 semantic classes and the content analysis identified 10 categories. For users the generic drug stands for a medicine sold at a lower price, a no-mark product equivalent to a more expensive one, but which supplies the immediate consumption demand, in addition to the fact that the word generic comprises a wider representation, absorbing and incorporating any products having the characteristics of generic drugs, but with questionable quality.
Generic drugs; Social representations; Consumers; Drug users