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Nancy Schimelpfening

Are Generic Drugs As Good As Brand Name Drugs?

By June 15, 2009

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Are generic drugs as good as brand name drugs? In theory, yes. The FDA requires generic drugs to have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as brand name drugs. One area they may differ in, however, is inactive ingredients.

One implication of this variation in ingredients is that you may find you have an allergic reaction to a generic drug that you didn't have with the brand name drug because they use some dye or filler that wasn't in the brand name drug. Or the inactive ingredients could affect you in some other way. For example, a few years ago I was given a generic version of the acne cream Retin-A. When I applied it to my skin I got an unbearable burning sensation that I did not get with the brand name drug. As a result, I could not use the generic version that my insurance company paid for and had to pay out-of-pocket to get the brand name drug.

The most important question though is whether the active ingredient works the same. As I said previously, the FDA requires that generic drugs be virtually the same as the brand name in dosage, purity and how it behaves in your body. Unfortunately, I've heard from many people who have cast doubts on just how reliable generics are. Here is one example from a member of our forum who goes by the name Janny7:

I was wondering if anybody else has experienced this? My doctor gave me a month's worth of Zoloft. When I got the script filled for the next month I was given generic. I didn't even know there was a generic so I hadn't looked, but I started to feel not as good after 2 days. That's when I checked and saw he had given me the generic. I am getting it changed on Monday.

Others who replied in the thread reported similar experiences to Janny's.

The conclusion I've reached is that we should use caution when using generic drugs, especially with drugs that affect our mental well-being. While they theoretically should be the same, people's experiences do not always back this up. It's better to be safe than sorry I say

January 16, 2008 at 9:06 am
(1) sharie says:

I have heard that the FDA qualifies
the active ingredient in a generic drug to be equivalent to the brand name at
80% of the effective amount in the
brand name. It did not suprise me that
the government agency has it’s own
interpretation of the English language
where 80% to them somehow translates to
equivalent, whereas to most of us “equivalent” means equal to, or

January 16, 2008 at 11:52 am
(2) Elizabeth Hensley says:

Generic Surmontil (trimipramine) is worthless. The brand stuff works great. It is the only AD that does not lower REM sleep and I take it to help with sleep apnea as well as depression, but on the months I was on generic, I was getting really depressed again and it did not help me sleep and avoid migraines. Pay for the brand name. Its worth the extra price!

January 21, 2009 at 8:20 am
(3) Meg says:

Since Wellbutrin has gone generic, I have been using that. I take 450 mg. so I get a prescription for 150 mgs and one for 300 mgs. At my last refill, the pharmacy changed generic brands on the 150 mg version. Within 1 day after I took it, I started getting discontinuation symptoms. My pharmacy was able to special order the old brand, I went back to that one, and everything is fine now.

January 21, 2009 at 9:31 am
(4) Mrs. F says:

Generic Prozac almost made me go off the deep end. I tried to switch more than once over the years. I have not had the same problem with geneic Welbutrin thank goodness (as I take that along with the Prozac). I wish I could take generic in that my co-pays are excessively high. Both for brand and for mental health visits. (It would cost me less if I were an “inpatient”!)

January 21, 2009 at 11:37 am
(5) camping says:

The Ritalin LA was, without informing the consumer and Dr., switched to generic at the pharmacy. The consumer felt lousy, was less alert and fought off sleep until the mistake was realized.

January 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm
(6) Daniel says:

I just started taking the generic for Wellbutrin XL and don’t notice any difference. It makes me feel just as good as the name brand, and for a fraction of the cost.

January 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm
(7) Dragonangelvk says:

I have tried the generic for Prozac twice and both times felt seriously depressed and anxious. I am now on citalopram the generic for both celexa and Lexapro. Lexapro was great but it is expensive. The insurance companies are ripping all of us off with their demands we pay for the brand name, knowing the generics are normally only HALF as effective as the brand names. The companies say they are better but you have to take more of them and still not feel your best. On generics I feel depressed and irritable and I am a mental health worker and know my own symptoms. The push for all generics is not helping the patients. We need to have changes made in how we choose to have our health care managed. I want to manage my own and use the medications that I know work. NOT the knock off generics.

January 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm
(8) Loretta says:

As in all things, if you have the money you don’t have the problem.

January 24, 2009 at 6:31 pm
(9) Barb says:

I know from experience that the generics are not always the same. What is frustrating is that I cannot afford the Brand name as the insurance company will not pay for them. I often wish I had never gone on any of these drugs! Now I cannot get off.

January 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm
(10) RafaelG says:

Generic Prozac has been a major issue for me for over the last several years. I have tried 3 different brands of generics: PAR, BARR, and TEVA are three I used, and each was different for me (some stronger, some weaker) but all the generics don’t match Brand Name Prozac in one key side-effect – My thinking became very fuzzy hard time remembering things, slow ability to verbalize, were all present in all three brands of the generics.

After 2 years, I recently went back on the Brand Name Prozac and what a difference !!! My thinking ability was back to my normal – fast and quick thinking and speaking levels I had with the Brand Name Prozac.

And of course it worked great against my Panic Attacks and OCD without the foggy fuzzing thinking side effects of the generics.

Rafael G.

June 17, 2009 at 4:22 am
(11) emd9112001 says:

they also put placebos in the meds as if you cant tell the difference. after being on a med for 7 years, ican tell when i get a placebo.

June 17, 2009 at 4:37 am
(12) guest 1243 says:

brand and generic citalopram have completely opposite effects! brand makes me almost hyper and gets me going through the day. Generic makes me mellow, not as OCD, but sometimes a little too tired and apathetic to be motivated to do much. Generic makes me hungry; brand not hungry at all.Both have different target effects and side effects.

June 17, 2009 at 6:36 am
(13) Carmen says:

One great example of how not all generics are created equal is with the generic versions of Wellbutrin. There is one marketed as Buproprion(GlaxoSmithKline), of the two it is most like the brand name, and Budeprion (Teva.) The difference between the two is not in the quality but in the delivery mechanics of the extended time release. Buproprion’s delivery method is still patented and Budeprion being the new kid on the block have had to come up with their own method. Ironically, it’s Budeprion that works great for me and with Buproprion or the name brand I might as well not be taking anything. Not all differences are negative, my concern is that in an attempt to be more like the brand name some companies will sacrifice the patients that do respond well for a share of the other sector of the market.

June 17, 2009 at 8:01 am
(14) Daniel says:

I am now taking the generic form of Wellbutrin XL and don’t notice any difference in feeling. I feel like it’s treating me just as well as the brand name did.

June 17, 2009 at 9:05 am
(15) jentilpet says:

Comment for “DRAGONANGELVK” “I KNOW MY OWN SYMPTOMS” likened to…I know my body & what I need,not what your doctor[not always] think! I mentioned “Amourthyroid” instead of Synthroid for hypothy- my dr.of last 2 yrs shook his head,also for 3 other ones…could that be because they were alternatives?Synthroid has made billions,adding 30lbs…I can say,can swear it is bec- of SIN-Thyroid! The FDA/AMA…I just love that “Approved”,but alterns are not,but alterns- also have no side-effects! Why is it an issue? I mean if you have to ask….Doctors will never tell you to try or take a certain vitamin! It might make you feel better,thus he’ll not be needed? Each time they “write” for a certain med,they get a kick-back!we get a kick too!Pharmacists also have a hand in selections! Either it’s phycological or not,why then IS there a Generic to begin with?I once dated a guy who wouldn’t “ever” accept Generic! He was convinced they weren’t the same,nor did they feel as if they were actually doing what they were supposed to,innate,so-to-speak,the difference was always obvious each time he took one..why is that?We know our own body[ies!!},doesn't anyone on this bloglike/message board ever take alternatives? "AMORYN" is said to be the big thing since 2004? for depression/w/ Seledyn for anxiety!! Why doesn't the FDA/AMA "Approve" that? Could it be because insurance companies will not pay for them?Talk about a "catch-22"So,the only way to get these are online,through mail,etc...The dr. I have now w/ other doctor's in the E.Pa area E.Stroudsberg[unlike Allentown,because those doctors are more educated}...Primary's are so afraid of challenge!6yrs,first dr. I had since living here,having left L.I ny after 39yrs..I hate it here[long story] I love& miss our first home,it will always be “OURS!”anyway…Nassau county/Suffolk..”those” are doctors!Each state has different standards of doctors,& they get away w/ being real doctors…unprofessional would be a tiny word,to describe them..non-descript if you will!The minute I challenged the first dr..he let me go,just like that!!He kept saying my thyroid was “fine”…while I gained 30lbs? still “fine?”No way was that “test” fine!First, the standard TSH test,is “part” of the test! Who knew that then,not I ! & he wasn’t about to explain it!These doctors,love their patients,because they ask nothing..they never read about alternatives,nor do they care!They sit in the waiting room,looking as if they were dead!Spiritually lost,unhealthy,not complaining,because they’re not aware,nor do they have any instinct re: if the dr. is right or wrong!My intellect made him inferior! I asked too many questions,& he had no answers! If things had gone right w/ the lawyers here,I’d have taken him to court for the 101 pages of imflammatory remarks he kept on me!As far as Prozac& those other’s like Effexor[tried 2001,for 2weeks] I blew up!Weight gain,my friend..did he tell me,warn me? NO!I would never take those anti-d’s! Phyciatrist gave me Lamictal..then Gurdon,but I haven’t touched the Gurdon,& I will lie to him,saying…”I feel a little better” because it’s no use,phyciatrists are really sicko’s1 I only see him for Lithium[bi-polar] however 15yrs or more,I do not have a bad case of mood-swings,I am 56!I will try “AMORYN”,I know there are vitamins that go to the very heart-source of our depression!Not masking it,UNMASKING the illness,w/ no side effects! The FDA approves side effects? weight gain?It is the Pharmeceutical companies that take the millions for “research” when they’re not researching anything!Celeb’s give millions together,either that or their colleges!Instead of the HUMANE SOCIETY,there’s no research needed to know we have insane people who abuse our beloved animals,wildlife killings/Palin’s wolf torture!Soon to be aired,again,all over!Bush/Cheney/McCain…Idaho,Montana,”Butch” OTTER wants to be the first to kill a wolf…these are the men running our U.S.A.!!!Still following Bush’s doctrine of red-neck mentality…My point is, domino-effect..Where the money goes? Celeb’s give $$$ to charities,but do they know what these labs are accomplishing after 30trs…Mary-Tyler-Moore,still talking about “diabetes” when there ARE minerals,amino acids,substances that have been proven long ago,but doctors will never tell…”CURES”,and What They Don’t Want You To Know!”Kevin Trudau! If anyone knows what the Pharm’s& Medical world isn’t doing…it is Kevin Trudau..perhaps that’s why he’s needed a body guard!The man who know “too much”..should be the book you want to read so much!”Thyroid Effect” any book,that is new re: where it starts…like depression,thyroid has a hand in this too,if not an entire issue!Europe,now, they are above us,in-that they explore& test on patients,what’s worse..being approved,when they’re not certain what they’re approving,or what Farrah Fawcett did? She had experimental treatments,did get rid of the tumors!What came after was not the tumor again! Her message is to tell us that U.S.A doesn’t exchange,nor do they interact w/ Europe’s constant,dedication! America[AMA} too threatened to work w/ Europe’s doctors?They might find a cure? oh no…they might loose money!Doctor’s today & the college preppies who want “prestige&money”,not because they’re so interested in “helping” people!Look at the results…we have more bad,than good!It’s all greed! Why are alternatives so hard to get?Why did my dr. say “You know,you have to watch out for those too”meaning,the tiny,side-effects?maybe one,oppossed to 10!!Do they tell us that? You’d better read the interactions like SIN-Throid & Lithium??Yes,dr said “sure,they are interacting”I thought he’d follow that w/ “as we speak” but he stopped,imagine saying that to me,admitting there’s an interaction,but doing nothing,saying nothing? Being a dr.HERE must be heaven for them,they need not know anything!The patients are stupid,illiterates,who think altern’s ARE the bad things!Med’s should be the altern’s! Sure,medicine is needed,but why are we not getting the quality of medicine?There are plenty of MINERALS,like I said..and they want to keep us blind!They make money from death!300,000? is that the number I just saw for the fatal,almost fatal,but paralized anyway patients…MISTAKES hospitals make?Yearly?I liked your honesty,and crisp anger,I hope I didn’t go too far,but short stories are not my thing,when I write,it often leads to other avenues,like life…

June 17, 2009 at 9:08 am
(16) jentilpet says:

Comment for “DRAGONANGELVK” “I KNOW MY OWN SYMPTOMS” likened to…I know my body & what I need,not what your doctor[not always] think! I mentioned “Amourthyroid” instead of Synthroid for hypothy- my dr.of last 2 yrs shook his head,also for 3 other ones…could that be because they were alternatives?Synthroid has made billions,adding 30lbs…I can say,can swear it is bec- of SIN-Thyroid! The FDA/AMA…I just love that “Approved”,but alterns are not,but alterns- also have no side-effects! Why is it an issue? I mean if you have to ask….Doctors will never tell you to try or take a certain vitamin! It might make you feel better,thus he’ll not be needed? Each time they “write” for a certain med,they get a kick-back!we get a kick too!Pharmacists also have a hand in selections! Either it’s phycological or not,why then IS there a Generic to begin with?I once dated a guy who wouldn’t “ever” accept Generic! He was convinced they weren’t the same,nor did they feel as if they were actually doing what they were supposed to,innate,so-to-speak,the difference was always obvious each time he took one..why is that?We know our own body[ies!!},doesn’t anyone on this bloglike/message board ever take al

June 17, 2009 at 10:48 am
(17) elaine says:

@jentilpet – please, sweetie, go to your doctor and get on something that works. I know it can be a difficult process, but there is help available.

Regarding the generic vs brand name. I’ve had issues with generic birth control, so I was concerned when Cymbalta stopped working and he put me on the generic form of Zoloft. I’ve been on it for two months and it’s been great, but if I start to have issues, I’ll ask him to try the name brand first.

I’ve had the pharmacist at Target tell me if the doctor is prescribing the name brand, he’s on the take from the drug maker and that there is absolutely no difference. I stopped going there. Last thing I need is a pharmacist with an agenda.

June 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm
(18) Kathy says:

I have been dealing with generics for years, as Medicaid ORDERS me and the pharmacies in Maine to use generics at all times, unless there is not a generic for the med ordered. I have noticed differences in the way the generics in some meds are defintely different for me.

June 17, 2009 at 1:19 pm
(19) HealthLover says:

In the comments I am reading people are saying “the generic worked for me” but there is likely to be MORE THAN ONE GENERIC BRAND of a pill that is out on the market. It seems that there can be several, or many pill manufacturers making a generic for the same original drug. The longer a drug has been around & the more popular it is the more new and different manufacturers will want to make it. Your pharmacy should keep a record of WHICH generic they gave you, but it would be wise to keep your own records of course. If the specific generic that you tried worked for you, then you want to make sure that you stay on that particular generic brand. Note if the pills in your new refill match your previous pills & check the numbers & letters “stamped” or printed onto them. The pharmacy can arbitrarily switch companies they buy your generic drug from. The reason people start out on the brand name is often because doctors get free samples of those. Also there can be a legal patent process that can be used, whereby no other company is allowed legally to make a generic of a new brand name drug for a certain length of time. The original pharmaceutical company has the rights to this patent to help reimburse themselves for the research and development costs to come up a new medication, and hopefully make sure it is safe before doctors prescibe it.

June 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm
(20) brain dead says:

I am missing my third day of work today due to, what I think is caused by generic Wellbutrin XL (Bupropion XL Tabs MFG: Global). The feeling is the same as when I tried to wean myself off of Wellbutrin a few years ago. I very gradually cut down the amount over a period of a month and felt fine for about 3 weeks. Then I crashed and became so fatigued, I wanted to call it comatose or brain dead. Well now that I’m in my third week of this particular generic, that’s exactly what’s happening – I might as well not be taking any medication. I have asked my doctor to get me back on name brand Wellbutrin. What’s sad is that I will need it for the rest of my life. It has already been at least 15 years.

June 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm
(21) Brenda says:

I had a terrible time when the generic for Prozac came onto the market, and that was all I could get. There were terrible differences. And now we are being robbed, because they are charging nearly as much for generics as for the original brand name drug.This is obscene.

June 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm
(22) Joel says:

I’m giddy with the cost savings. Bring on the generics!

January 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm
(23) Missy says:

I took Adderall XR for years without any problems. A few months ago my pharmacist gave me the generic equivalent without me noticing. After a month of feeling constantly nauseous I went to the doctor and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I got my next prescription filled at a different pharmacy and they gave me the name brand drug and the nausea went away. The next month I tried the generic again and had the same queasy feeling.

September 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm
(24) Tim says:

I read a couple posts where “I have heard that” and then make a statement out of that… that’s the kind of stuff that floats around this argument. The wording in the above arcticle leaves room for interpretation as well “virtually the same in dosage…” The dosage needs to be within 90% to qualify. The structure of the drug, however, has to be identical. Different starches and other inactives may be different. Coumadin and Synthroid are two medications that are adjusted by 10%, so that difference can say a lot there, however, with most medications a 10% is hardly noticed. In studies most medications have been found to be within 4%.
Can some people not do as well on the generic as the brand, yes it is possible, but not common. Bottom line here, is there can be a $100 difference in cost for a very marginal difference in dosage. If somebody wants to pay the difference, more power to you, just don’t require my insurance to pay for brand… understand that insurance is a group where everybody pays in, in hopes that not everybody will be sick, but a few that do can be covered (the cost is spread out) Making demands on this drives everybody’s premiums up…. Just my opinion

October 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm
(25) vern crawford says:

i know first hand that the generic brand Protonix did abso0lutly nothing for me. after 4 yrs. on the brand name i could tell the difference in a matter of hours. i don t believe for a second that generic is just the same as the brand name.

September 15, 2011 at 11:45 am
(26) Kimberly Allen says:

I was taking generic Celexa. It got to where I could not breathe doing simple chores. I slept alot and did not have any energy. I took this med for 3 months and not being able to breathe finally progressed to the point I had to stop. I had surgery on my vocal cords and chalked it off to this. However, my ENT said no it was not that. I have taken the name brand Celexa and not had this problem. Fortunantly I don’t take many meds, maybe and antibiotic here and there and yes even with generic antibiotics I have suffered. Most have bed ridden me to the point I don’t won’t to get up because I am weak and feel awful all over. For some reason generics affect my muscles???

February 9, 2012 at 10:37 am
(27) brian says:

Sounds like the nocebo effect to me. After all, the placebo responders to SSRIs are almost impossible to find: this in light of the fact they are no better than placebo, except for patients with a hamilton score of over 24.
Anecdotal evidence is tainted by peoples beliefs: I always have bad reaction to generics–well surprise surprise what the outcome is.

Volunteers were told that a mild electrical current would be passed through their heads and might cause a headache. No electrical current was actually passed, but two-thirds of them developed a headache. Sounds like some of the people complaining about generics on here–cue outrage and denial.

February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am
(28) ben says:

Do yourselves a favour and look up the nocebo effect. The opposite of the nocebo effect, and that which makes SSRIs so effective: despite there being no difference between placebo and active drug, in all but severely depressed patients.

July 14, 2012 at 10:14 am
(29) lou says:

My takeaway from this very interesting discussion is this. Generics are not “the same as” brand names, and they may, or may not, be just as effective. I would say keep an open mind. Be willing to try a generic. Be willing to think it will work as well. Be alert to the fact that it may not.

October 4, 2012 at 7:55 am
(30) Nick says:

A work colleague my mother and my self have experience of generics for a variety of complaints. Some work, some don’t work as well and some not at all. There are also differences in side effects. I think the response to a generic varies with individuals as well. If you have to use generics try different brands and if one works try to stick to it. Me, I’m sticking to my flowmax for an obvious complaint as everything else is too variable.

November 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm
(31) Merissa W. says:

Hello. I am a reporter for the Santa Monica College Newspaper in California. I’m doing a story for the school paper about the issues that arise between Prescription Brand names vs. Generic medications.

The school paper reaches some 30,000 students and it would be very helpful for students to read real-life examples of this issue.

If anyone is interested, please e-mail me at misspop77@yahoo.com.


Merissa W.

January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am
(32) Rusty Pugh says:

I’ve been taking Ambien for 20 years. When the generic (Zolpidem) became available a few years ago, I switched to that because it was much cheaper, and United Healthcare wouldn’t pay on name brand. I have noticed a difference. The generic works okay sometimes, but other times it doesn’t. Very inconsistent.

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