In the field of pharmaceuticals, Americans have been told that price doesn't matter. Generic drugs are supposed to be identical to their brand name counterparts. For nearly 30 years, we believed this argument. We encouraged people to save money by insisting that their physicians prescribe generics whenever they were available.

All that changed several years ago when some pharmacists started telling us they had doubts about the quality of certain generic products. We also began getting letters from readers who had trouble with their generic prescriptions. Readers have shared their disappointment with generic pain relievers, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines and diabetes drugs. The generic drug manufacturers discount these reports.

Kathleen Jaeger, president and ceo of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, has written: "To set the record straight, there are no differences between FDA-approved brand and generic medicines. A generic must meet the same high standards as the brand-name drug, with the same safety and effectiveness, same active ingredients, same strength and dosage, same labeling and use and same high quality manufacturing standards."

While we agree with Ms. Jaeger that FDA approval is rigorous, we worry that once drugs are approved and marketed, monitoring is spotty at best. For the most part, the pharmaceutical industry runs on the honor system. The FDA is not capable of analyzing more than a handful of pill bottles from pharmacy shelves each year. As a result, unscrupulous manufacturers or counterfeiters may be slipping substandard generics into the marketplace.

Joe and Terry Graedon

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  1. Gretchen Saaduddin
    Los Angeles

    Have you heard anything about Metformin by Major Pharmaceuticals not working? For some reason the VA sent my brother many more bottles than he could use of the 1000 mg strength, which he was supposed to break in half and take 1 bid. My mom ran out of hers and was given some of my brothers. His blood sugar never changed at all with this Major Metformin, which I found odd. Before my mom took the VA Major brand, her blood sugar which was quite well controlled with her own prescribed Metformin. It promptly went up to almost 200, and has never gone below 125 previously. Why is this? Is some weird research being done on vets that we know nothing about? With all the recent VA problems I am wondering if I inadvertently uncovered something. They have really been pushing insulin on him, because his blood sugar is so high. Something really stinks here, and I would like to know what is going on.

  2. Juanita
    akron ohio

    seems strange that the price of synthroid and levithroxide have gotten very expensive, I recall when the drug stores were envolved in a class action and in my casse returned me for 100.00 for their tactics when I first had synthroid it was around 6.00 for a 90 day script. If the item is cheap they discontinue the product, not fair tactics

  3. Bettie
    San Antonio TX

    I had been taking Synthroid for about 15 years when I went on Medicare and Tricare for Life and started getting prescriptions from Tricare’s Express scripts. They substituted a generic, and very soon I started gaining weight (I have never had a problem with weight), I couldn’t get enough sleep, and my hair and nails became brittle. I went to my MD who checked my thyroid levels and said they were OK.

    I went online to search for thyroid problems and found lots of reports of the same problem with the generic. I asked my MD for a prescription for the Synthroid brand and my symptoms disappeared within days! Tricare won’t pay for the brand, so I have to pay for it myself. It is quite expensive, almost a dollar a pill.

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