Q. I’ve been taking Ambien off and on for years to help me sleep. It always worked like a charm.
The past few weeks I have had trouble falling asleep, though. This morning at 4 am I was still wide awake and realized that my prescription had been switched to generic zolpidem. This generic is NOT working.
I always thought generics were just as good as brands but now I have second thoughts. Ambien will cost me over $200 for 30 pills. What can I do?

A. We have heard from hundreds of visitors to our website about concerns with a variety of generic drugs. Many people have reported similar problems with some generic versions of Ambien (zolpidem).
We are sending you our Guide to Saving Money on Medicines with generic drug pros and cons plus advice on using these drugs safely. Certain generic products do work as expected. We would stick with the manufacturer of zolpidem that works for you.

Join Over 53,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. suzy
    hawaii
    Reply

    I have had the same thing happen. What you can do is have the doctor write on your prescription no substitutes and your insurance will cover the name brand for 20, 40 or 60 dollars for your copay.

    If the she (your doctor) writes no substitutions then he/she is putting in the order to get the name brand. If you ask for the name brand it will not be covered under your insurance. Good luck!

  2. EMT
    Reply

    I took Ambien CR last spring, and it worked the best for me of all the sleep aids I’ve tried — helped me fall asleep and stay asleep for 5-6 hours (regular Ambien helped with sleep initiation, but I woke up within 3 hours). This year I got a new prescription for Ambien CR and received a generic (about $3/pill). The results of the generic are inconsistent — sometimes I fall asleep right away, sometimes it takes me several hours (same time frame from my evening meals, same exercise/running regime, same bedtime/”wind down” routines). Sometimes I barely sleep at all (it’s as if I took a “dud”). And I don’t tend to stay asleep as long on the generic as I did on the name-brand.
    Overall it’s just been less effective and less consistent. The FNP who prescribed it was snide/rude to me when I explained these differences, said it was exactly the same and any loss of sleep is a “placebo effect” caused from my knowledge that I’m taking a generic. I take generic pills all the time and went into this fulling expecting it to work, so I think there’s more to it. These are marked “A-1″ and I believe the manufacturer is Actavis Elizabeth. I’d recommend avoiding this brand if possible.

  3. JNM
    Reply

    I have tried all of the generics of Ambien and Northstar is the only one that works for me. I have great luck with it and no luck with all others.

  4. Judy
    Reply

    I received a refill for my Zolpidem from CVS-Caremark. I am Type 2 Diabetic and found that after taking 5 mg of this sleep aid, in the am, my sugar reading was higher than normal. I checked the bottle, cause the shape was different in the pill, and found another Pharm Co had filled this med. I am going to notify my Pharmacy that I do not want this Pharm Co refill again.
    I had this problem with another medication I took, and found out that it is hard to switch companies. Finally, my pharmacy got the correct med. There has to be something in this zolpidem refill that is causing my high sugar count. My normal refill is from another Pharm – Aurobonindo (I believe) the one I am using now is from Roxane. How does the FDA allow the generics to be produced differently? Unbelievable that we put our life on the line to take a prescribed medication and it could possibly kill us.

  5. PF
    Reply

    I too noticed the difference between Ambien and the generics. I have taken several different generics. They are all different and I ask for which brand I want, by name and the pharmacy will order it, if they can get it. I had two brands which did not work for me at all. I had one generic brand which was BETTER than the Ambien. But the pharmacist cannot get it again.
    It is not anyone’s imagination. Once the pill is swallowed, you cannot fight off the effects. If you are still awake 3 hours later, then something is wrong with that tablet.
    Below is a link to a paper which says it is a patent description, it tells the reasons why there might be so much variation among the different brands of zolpidem. First, it appears that zolpidem tartrate comes in different forms.
    http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6242460/description.html
    The fifth paragraph down, states that the proper formation is dependent on strict control of the crystallization process and the quality of starting materials. And in the sixth paragraph says that it has low physical stability; rough handling of the zolpidem tartrate in the manufacturing process can cause it to break down.
    I think the manufacturers of Ambien were very careful with their manufacturing process because they had a reputation to keep.
    http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6242460/description.html

  6. SN
    Reply

    I was switched to a different generic Ambien about 4 or 5 nights ago. I didn’t think anything about. The pills just went from a burgundy/brown color to white (and slightly different shape). I threw out my other bottle so I don’t know previous manufacturer! I have been falling asleep ok every night since the switch, but ever since first pill, I have been waking up early in the morning (before the sun comes up) and feeling wide awake. This hasn’t happened in a long time. I also felt really “happy” when the other pill “hit” me, but that hasn’t happened since the switch.

  7. gsb
    Reply

    I too was given generic Ambien (10MG) and it didn’t work. I have been complaining to my son who is my pharmacist about generics.
    He said the generics are just as good as name brands. I had three different generic brands of Ambien that didn’t work. At that point he believed me and ordered from his supplier the same looking pill that the original pill looked like. He then told me that was what the pharmacists’ are told in pharmacy school. He went to pharmacy school many years ago, I don’t know if they are saying it today.
    There is a web site (sorry I forgot the name) that can tell you who the manufacturer is of each pill. I researched and found the pill I wanted and the pills I didn’t want.

  8. Sleep Deprived...
    Reply

    In an odd sort of way, it’s helpful to see that others are struggling with sleep as much as I am… I’m wishing us all sweet dreams.

  9. no
    Reply

    I read about Ambien (the real thing) versus the generic on another site. I believe it was a message board. Many people find that the generic does not work, or, only certain brands of generics work. They travel from CVS, to Walgreen’s, to Walmart, etc. looking for the brand that works best for them. Two brands I recall are TEVA and Northstar.
    This past month the pharmacy clerk told me that my Zolpidem (generic for Ambien) would look different because it was a different manufacturer. Since I read this Q & A, I got out all of the pharmacy info inserts I could find for Zolpidem. I have the abbreviations: NORT, ROXA, and TORR. I don’t know which one worked best, maybe none, but this last one is Northstar and I have been awake all night on it.
    I have taken more than one 10 mg. tablet, and extra Klonopins to get to sleep. Last week I bet I had 13 hours sleep in 5 days. I stay awake reading or get up and try to use up this extra energy by researching the Internet. I get some wild ideas and think I am going to do the impossible when daylight comes. Then after some sleep over the weekend, I realized I was manic and my ideas were ridiculous.
    1.) What do those abbreviations stand for?, 2.) Has anybody gotten manic or lost hours and hours of sleep on generic Ambien?
    Thank you.

  10. Karen C.
    Reply

    I have been taking 10 mg. of Ambien’s generic Zolpidem for many years. I just looked at my past years’ pharmacy receipts to see if they give the manufacturer with all the other information. I remember reading about this same topic on another website and consumers were comparing TEVA brand to Northstar. Some chased around to CVS to Walgreen’s to Walmart looking for the brand that worked for them.
    The last refill I got about a month ago, the pharmacy tech alerted me that what I was receiving was Ambien/Zolpidem from a different manufacturer and it would look different but be the same ingredients.It is Northstar.
    Oh boy. I haven’t slept well since. I slept 1 hour last Friday. I have been up all night with lots of energy, weepy, almost manic in the crazy ideas I come up with in the night. I thought it was from something else. Now I know better.
    Some of the abbreviations to the brands are NORT, ROXA, TORR. Please Doctors Graedon, who are these manufacturers?
    Will my psychiatrist believe me? Please name other sleeping medications. Thank you.

  11. CK
    Reply

    You may want to try getting a generic filled at a different pharmacy that uses a different manufacturer. I have found that the generic for Percocet is different at Walgreens and CVS. The manufacturer Walgreens used worked great, the one at CVS gave me hallucinations and a mild panic attack. Perhaps Ambien generics work the same.

  12. CSO
    Reply

    I have taken Ambien then Ambien CR then Zolpidem for over 10 years on a daily basis. The best night’s sleep I have had in that time period is when I accidentally took 2 ambien 10mg. I thought I was taking 2 5mg!
    I have had mixed results with zolpidem. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I have been off zolpidem for 3 weeks now with one exception. Slight change in sleep pattern.

  13. lubsie
    Reply

    Without my approval, I was given a generic substitute for Ambien, the generic drug simply did not work for me, I was awake till 7AM. The pharmacist insisted that the generic version was the same drug, only with different fillers. I persisted that my RX be refilled with the same brand name that I purchased in the past, I would not be paying $50 for a generic that does not work. Why is it easier to return defective products at Canadian Tire than to return defective drugs back to a pharmacy?
    Years ago, I was given a generic for “550 Sodium Naproxene”, I had no relief for my post surgical pain for the entire evening. Again, the pharmacist insisted that the generic tablets were exactly the same. WRONG!
    The brand name tablet brought me total relief within 15 minutes.
    Shame on the pharmaceutical companies enriching their bottom lines by shorting real meds in many generic prescriptions.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.