bottles of medications with warning stickers and information

The FDA maintains that all generic drugs are “identical” to their brand name counterparts. Of course, the word identical does not mean the same thing to everyone. Most of us assume that identical means exactly the same. For example, identical twins have the same exact DNA. If you drop your iPhone down the toilet and want to replace it with an “identical” iPhone, you can be confident that your new iPhone is exactly the same as the old one.

“Identical” Is Different for Drugs

The FDA, however, has a different definition for identical, especially when it refers to generic drugs: “A generic drug is identical–or bioequivalent–to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.”

What the FDA does not tell you in this sentence is that generic drugs can have different “inert” ingredients or fillers. In other words, all the other stuff except the active ingredient could be completely different. What’s more, the formulation can be be quite different. Take Wellbutrin XL 300, for example. This brand name antidepressant gradually releases the active ingredient bupropion over the course of a day. It uses a “membrane” technology for this slow release.

Budeprion XL 300

One generic equivalent, Budeprion XL 300, uses a “matrix” technology for its slow release. The same amount of bupropion (300 mg) is released, but the timing is quite different. Budeprion XL dissolves and releases its ingredient more quickly. The FDA confirms this in a report it has released on its Web site.

We have received hundreds of complaints about Budeprion XL 300 not behaving like the brand name Wellbutrin XL 300. In an unprecedented response to these concerns, the FDA and the manufacturer and distributor of Budeprion are planning a study. Perhaps we will learn if the two formulations are indeed “identical” or not. It will take time, however, to collect and analyze the data.

Update: When the FDA completed its study, it found that in fact Budeprion XL 300 was not identical to Wellbutrin XL 300. Read our story about it here.

Questions about Other Generic Drugs

Budeprion XL 300 is not the only generic drug raising questions. Over the last several years we have received hundreds and hundreds of complaints about a variety of generic drugs. They range from the generic form of the anti-seizure drug Keppra (levetiracetam) to the heart drug Toprol XL (metoprolol succinate), the heartburn medicine Prilosec (omeprazole) and the pain reliever OxyContin (oxycodone).

If you would like to report a problem with a generic drug, either side effects or lack of effectiveness, please add your comment below. Put the brand or generic drug name at the top of your comment. We will forward your story to the FDA.

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  1. Lisa
    San Diego, CA

    Everything Teva makes is garbage.
    Sun Pharmaceutical Bupropion is very weak.

  2. Bev

    I recently change pharmacies, due to an insurance change and they request Walgreens is their preference for the best value. I have been taking Omeprazole for many years, it was a yellow and white capsule. I started Walgreen’s generic of this which is a tan capsule. I right away felt very exhausted. I started dizziness, migraines and feeling jittery. Sunlight bothered my eyes. I felt congested and also had gas pains in stomach. I was so tired, so after about 2 weeks on Walgreen’s Omeprazole, I realized that this was the only different medicine or brand that I had changed. I was just considering what had caused my symptoms, when I realized this. I have stopped the medicine and have heartburn, so I will have to pay for another medicine over the counter to help treat this. My conclusion as each of us is different and reactions to medicines can be different, is that whatever they are using in the fillers, I may be allergic to, I am waiting to call pharmacy for 2 more days just to see if any symptoms come back, but truly think it is Walgreens generic Omeprazole. When I read the side effects, and the rare side effects, there it was in the prescription leaflet attached to the generic medicine, I have the worst side effects, maybe worse due to filler.

  3. Julie

    I am a compounding chemist by trade. I chose not to write a dissertation as to why I am forced to use a narcotic pain reliever but I am medically administered the medication after failed surgeries. I hate taking it. I don’t get high. I’ve never taken it ‘not as prescribed’.

    I think I am ‘sensitive’ to drugs more than other people. I can tell when the waitress gives me pepsi and not coke. I can tell my burger was cooked in a pan where onions were previously cooked. I have a sensitive palette.. and I can smell things before they happen. Its not a gift, its a curse.

    That being said,. my pharmacist was special ordering my Endo 10/325’s and then due to February ‘not having as many days’ (this is the excuse given to me) my Rx didn’t show up. No problem I have a bottle put away so I gave them a few days.. and then a week. After 10 days it was not arriving. I asked my friend the pharmacist, . What brand do you have? HE said Watson. I said Ugh, but ok just fill it. I am so tired of coming here. I never looked at the pill. I saw white and ‘assumed’ (insert that saying here,. about assuming)..

    After a day or so….. Headaches,. drowsy,. I left candles burning overnight. I forgot formulations. I was forgetting simple names, . mid sentence,. I thought I was having a stroke. I fell asleep on the TOILET…. woke up and my legs were asleep. It didn’t dawn on me to LOOK at the pill. And there it was A333. I spent all night googling Actavis. The merger. The fact that Actavis doesn’t manufacture pain pills. I read warning letters and recall warnings on products in quality control. The tablet centers were caught taping hoses that had active ingredients blowing out,. I mean. ,letter, after letter after letter. You can read them too just google things like Actavis warnings, complaints, RECALL, etc. And then read and use keywords to dig more.

    This is a financial windfall for several pharmaceutical companies to merge like this. When Watson handed the keys to Actavis they didn’t hand them ‘grannies secret codeine recipe’. They got the accounts and then Actavis called their suppliers in INDIA and GUAM and said “we need some pain pills el-rapido”

    FDA doesn’t regulate these medications. The biggest issues pharma companies have is import/export. Nobody tests the product. Nobody regulates the product. And here is where MY experience differs. 2013-2014 everyone flooded FDA and ACTAVIS with complaints about ineffective pain meds.

    The new word for generic isn’t bio identicals. ITS BIO SIMILARS. ” Make us a pain pill that looks like a pill,. tablets-up (presses well) Can be imprinted and offers an Analgesic reaction “FOR THE LOWEST PRICE POSSIBLE”. Well the pharma companies said “no problem boss”.. And BIO SIMILARS WERE created and are now flooding the pharmaceutical world.

    In my case I believe that those complaints caused them to tweak their formulation,. What is the most ironic thing is that I can take one pill and feel very little. The second one makes me forget my name. Head pain following gut rumbling. Take one at bedtime and I sleep like I’ve been given a roofie. I wake up in agonizing pain so the pills do not have the codeine that sends signals to the brain receptors. This is a tranquilizer of some type,. enough to shut the patient up who needs pain relief.

    The side effects? I am not sure yet what the long term residual effects are. We are talking about INDIA here,. so imagine a pharmaceutical version of lab created pain killer. You know how you watch TV and almost every day you see a Law Office of DoWeCheatumAndHow citing a class action suit against XXX maker of XXX medication,. permanent injury like renal failure, heart valve swelling etc etc. This is how that starts.

    One thing you CAN do,.is learn about WHO distributes your medication and whether or not they manufacture it or they buy from one of the hundreds of international pharmaceutical companies all over the world. Get smart. And don’t just do it with your pain pills. Do it with everything you take.

    I also use LIDODERM for neuropathic numbing. I got my box of numbing sheets and it said LIDOCAINE 5 ON IT,. I was puzzled, looked nothing like Lidoderm. I opened one up, pulled it off the backing and it rolled up and stuck to itself. I fought with it trying to roll it flat, trying to affix it to my skin,. I put it on my arm,. and waited.. and waited. No numbing. Nothing. And because I’m a crazy chemist I touched it to my tongue. NO NUMBING,. couldn’ t taste the lidocaine. IT WAS NOT PRESENT IN THIS PRODUCT.

    I got my magnifier out.. and almost fainted when I read “manufactured by Actavis” . Another BIO SIMILAR. LOOKS LIKE LIDODERM. Same size. Same feel,. Similar enough to pass off to a customer who would not really notice. I checked my insurance and they charged $150 for a box of 10. The next thing I am doing is meeting with my broker and making sure my annuities are well invested in pharmaceutical R&D and merger acquisitions. If I’m going to suffer in pain, I might as well earn some residuals.
    Love and Light,. Julie

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