The first email message in February piqued our interest: “I have been taking Budeprion XL 300 mg for 3 months instead of Wellbutrin XL 300 mg. I find that I am easily upset and cry very easily. Sometimes I feel aggressive. I also have short stabbing pains in my head.

“Taking the brand name drug (Wellbutrin) helped me feel the best I have felt in 20 years—not depressed and able to enjoy being with my family and friends.”

Wellbutrin XL is a long-acting antidepressant different from Prozac and SSRI medicines. The XL formulation from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is designed to be taken once a day to release a steady level of the active ingredient, bupropion, over 24 hours.

The patent on this pill recently expired and a generic version called Budeprion XL became available. Not long after, we started receiving letters and email messages about problems with Budeprion XL. At last count, more than 100 readers have reported their experiences with this generic drug.

One reader wrote: “I just had a nightmare experience switching from brand name Wellbutrin XL 300 mg to the generic Budeprion XL 300 mg, both extended-release. I have no history of ‘suicidality,’ but after switching to the generic, I went into a week of steadily rising panic. Then I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die.

“I made it through the worst of it, called a suicide hotline and didn't take any more Budeprion. The next day I felt much better and today I'm back to my normal self.

“I just saw my psychiatrist who said my reaction was almost certainly from a toxic dose of bupropion building up in my body. He says many of the generics are not absorbed or metabolized at the same rate as the brand name drugs, so you can get unpredictable effects. This one nearly killed me.”

We have no way to verify whether there is a problem with this generic drug. We notified the FDA of the messages we received. The agency assures us that it will analyze the drug and the reports it has received.

Anyone who would like to report a generic drug problem may visit our Web site (www.peoplespharmacy.com) and add comments to the growing list.

We have heard from several people that their depression returned when they started on the generic formulation. Another reader also became suicidal: “The pharmacy gave me Budeprion instead of brand name Wellbutrin. I steadily deteriorated into a suicidal crisis. I had never been suicidal before! My therapist gave me a new prescription for Wellbutrin and within a week, I was better.”

Others have reported side effects: “Soon after starting Budeprion I started having feelings of despair, hopelessness, disorganized thinking and anxiety, and fell into a depression. I have had physical problems as well: migraines of prolonged duration and greater intensity, sleep disturbances, night sweats, rapid weight gain, low energy and abrupt and painful changes in my menstrual cycle.  All of these changes coincide with my taking Budeprion instead of Wellbutrin XL. I have just resumed taking Wellbutrin XL and I am already feeling better and thinking more clearly.”

The FDA assures us that the approval process ensures that generic drugs are as good as their brand name equivalents. Our readers’ reports make us wonder if that is true.

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  1. LMS
    Reply

    I was prescribed Wellbutrin years ago (maybe 10) before there was a generic version I believe. My story is the same as all the others, Wellbutrin was a miracle for me, literally! It brought me out completely of my depression mentally and physically. I was not initially aware when was switched to a generic brand, but started feeling off a couple years ago.
    Those old flat feelings started to return, with no life changes that could be a contributor. When I finally put the pieces together and find all this information online about others’ similar experiences I asked my pharmacy to switch me back to the name brand. With my insurance plan, there is a $150 difference in price. Ouch, I can’t afford that.
    So I started researching different generics. My advice is to find the generic that works for you if you can’t get/afford the name brand from GlaxoSmithKline. From all my reading it sounds like Watson is the closest formulation. CVS and Walgreens are good about getting your medicine from the manufacturer you prefer if you ask.
    I feel the FDA is letting us down immensely! All of these testimonies are overwhelming evidence that there is a significant difference in the efficacy of these different manufacturers and most especially between Wellbutrin and the generic versions. Who do we write to about this? I will write to the FDA, but feel like there has to be some recourse considering their lack of acknowledgment of the problem previously.

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