People will do almost anything to save a buck. They clip coupons, drive miles out of their way to get cheaper gasoline and line up at the crack of dawn for special sales.

Not surprisingly, most people are more than happy to save money on pricey prescriptions by taking generic medicine. Insurance companies coerce patients into accepting generics by charging substantially lower co-pays for such pills. In some cases, they charge four times more for a brand. An insurance company may even refuse to pay at all for certain brand name medications.

The FDA insists that the inexpensive generic drugs it approves are just as good as the pricey brand names they replace. If people complain that they experience problems with generic drugs, we are told that it is all in their heads. FDA officials believe that people expect a certain color and shape and become upset when the pills look different.

We think the problem is far more complex. Plenty of readers tell us that they are thrilled to get a generic drug at one-third the cost, as long as it works. When it doesn’t, however, people become angry. Here are just a few of the stories that have been posted to our Web site:

“I got switched to the generic Wellbutrin XL and endured one month of hell. My world crashed and suicide began to feel inevitable. Fortunately, between my psychologist and my clinical nurse specialist, we determined that the issue may have been the generic drug. Within three days of returning to Wellbutrin XL, my life was returned to me. This was a VERY scary experience! I now have to pay $45/month instead of $10/month, but I really don't have a choice. This particular generic is too dangerous for me!”

Another reader had a similar experience: “After some devastating life events last year, my husband and I were put on Wellbutrin. It was very effective. Not long ago we were switched from Wellbutrin XL to the generic. We both inexplicably gained weight. He got night sweats and I'm experiencing insomnia. We are both anxious and depressed.

“I'm sorry others have also gone through this, but I’m glad to know it isn't all in my head as my doctor seems to think. The generic costs $10 for 30 pills. It will be $110 for Wellbutrin. Who can afford that? The generic is ineffective and could cost someone his life.”

An antidepressant that leaves people suicidal is no bargain, regardless of how little it may cost. Neither is a sleeping pill that leaves folks tossing and turning: “I have been on Ambien for several years. When I went to pick my latest prescription up at the pharmacy, I was told I would be receiving the generic. I was happy about that because it was cheaper.

“I took the pill at my usual time, 9:00 PM. I am usually asleep by 9:30, but I was still wide-awake at 2:30 AM. I slept at most 2 hours. These generic Ambien are nothing like the real thing.”

We wish we could rely on the FDA’s reassurance that generic drugs are just as good as brand name products. Unless the agency starts monitoring drugstore shelves for quality, consumers are on their own. Anyone who would like to report a generic drug problem may do so at our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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  1. LJC
    Reply

    DSD, I’ve been taking Wellbutrin now for several months and am doing OK. But not great they way I had been with the Teva Brand Budeprion. Good news though, my pharmacy “Rite Aide” did just get in an order of Teva and next week I shall be back on it again. Then maybe I can begin dropping the 15 Lbs I put on while taking Anchen.
    Others have told me that I should shop around, I called various pharmacies, then called Rite Aide customer service. They were very helpful, especially when I said I’d take all my scripts to the pharmacy that stocks Teva. You can guess they were quick to place their order and get me Teva Brand.
    Best of luck, I did hear the Watson generic wasn’t so bad. I didn’t want to play roulette again and stuck with GSK Wellbutrin until I could get this mess straightened out.

  2. Dsd
    Reply

    Ljc, I’m curious how you are doing on the brand name wellbutrin? I’m In a similar situation where I was fine on the teva brand but when they switched me to anchen I felt and feel horrible. Even though they are supposed to be the same pill and look the same. My options now are brand name or Watson and I’m curious how you’re doing.

  3. LJC
    Reply

    I am absolutely amazed at the various others that have had problems with the Anchen generic Bupropion HCI(XL). Back in July of 2011 my script was changed to that from the Teva Budeprion XL. When I was on the Teva I felt great, added a bit of hormones for post menopause and I was finally loosing weight after struggling for years. Then the sky fell, various health issues and the change in generic to Anchen. I was lost, gaining weight like crazy even though my diet never changed, fall came and I was more depressed than I had been in years. The holidays were a nightmare as I could barely catch my breath and managing stress was non existent.
    I kept wondering if my thyroid was out of whack, but recently all my blood work came back normal for me. Until I searched the internet and found this information I thought I was going insane! My husband kept insisting that I was over eating, even though I began walking 2 miles per day. My birthday came and I was so depressed I couldn’t even celebrate. I was beginning to have suicidal thoughts and that’s when it was time to figure out the puzzle. In all my years I’ve never experienced suicidal tendencies, something was really wrong here.
    I called around to many of the pharmacies and no-one’s carrying Teva locally, now my pharmacy has to special order Wellbutrin. Shame on the FDA for not requiring a pharmacy to warn of the possible drastic changes when changing any medications. Even when they claim to be the same. They are not even close as evident from the few here that have had negative reactions. Can you imagine how many out there are suffering and no knowledge that this generic could be so ineffective making their depression worse?
    I hope to feel better in a couple of days, this despair cannot continue.

  4. sjb
    Reply

    I’ve taken the Anchen product and, after more than three months on it, went into a downward spiral where I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Coincidentally, I got a refill with the Teva product and — it was like the sun finally came out! Took a while to figure out that it was the change in manufacturer (and the proprietary delivery system).
    Was happily on it about a year and a half, and then people started complaining about it — upset tummies, dizziness, etc. Last May, the Teva product disappeared from distributors’ shelves. I looked everywhere, even Canada. Took the Watson product from May until just before Christmas. It was better than nothing.
    My doctor gave me some samples of the Wellbutrin brand, and it has made a positive and significant difference. My drug plan no longer carries it, so I’ll have to get it from Canada. But I’ll still be on the lookout for the Teva product.

  5. DHS
    Reply

    I have had the same experience. The problem is not the active ingredient (bupropion) but is due to the time-release vehicle being different and giving a different pattern of release of the bupropion over time. At least that was the case with the Teva generic. Achen Pharma now has one out, but as usual, you can’t find out if the vehicle is identical to the brand name. I think that’s highly unlikely even though they claim the “time under the curve” is the same, blah, blah, blah. I’m going to continue paying the extra because it’s not worth it to go through a month or two of misery. If you can get your doctor to write your prescription for the brand name Wellbutrin because it’s a medical necessity, your copay may be less.

  6. lisa
    Reply

    Yes, I’m on wellbutrin– well its the generic 300mg, and I take mine at 8am and it lasts all day. I don’t have bad side effects. I have weight loss with it and don’t eat much, I don’t see how it’s bad, thanks.

  7. PE
    Reply

    I have been on Wellbutrin for many yrs. I started on it back before they had SR or XL versions. I have taken all three types and have had problems with the generic version Budeprion SR 150 which I believe was manufactured by Teva, that was about 6 yrs ago. I had to stop taking it, it just didn’t work. For the last 3 months I have been on the Global Pharm version of Bupropion HCL XL 150mg and it does not have anywhere near the effect that the Original Wellbutrin, or the teva generic version had.
    I’ve been Depressed, lethargic and have had suicidal thoughts for months. I went through a lot of difficulty figuring out which one of the medicines I take was causing it. I didn’t want to believe that yet another generic was causing the problem, but through a process of elimination I have determined that that’s the cause. I can remember a time when I thought that generics were the same as brand drugs, but life has taught me that that’s not always the case. I hope for a day when the FDA actually tests a medication instead of just rubber stamping it.

  8. DP
    Reply

    When I see comments praising Teva on a website or forum in which a main topic is the notorious ineffectiveness of Teva’s Budeprion XL (or one of that overgrown multinational company’s many other shoddy, awful knockoffs of good brand name medications), I think: “this must be a rep from Teva doing damage control.” It’s a well-known business practice and I wouldn’t put it past them.

  9. LO
    Reply

    I thought I was going crazy! A week ago I refilled my generic wellbutrin xl 300mg. I always received BUDEPRION XL by TEVA. It is a long, yellow pill. This time, I noticed they were round, white pills. I check the bottle – as they gave it to me in the original packaging – and saw it was the same name. Ok then, I guessed they didn’t make a mistake.
    Now I have diarrhea, stomach pains, a headache, and what looks like a small rash by my mouth. Desperate to figure out what was going on, I rechecked my meds to make sure everything was correct. I found I had been swithed to BUPROPION XL 300mg by ANCHEN. Aha. Maybe that is the problem.
    I searched the web and found this site. I called the pharmacist who was very rude and said it was just a manufacturer change. I told her that may be my problem. She was even more rude and said maybe I should go to the doctor because my stomach problem could be caused by something else because the only thing different is the fillers and starches.
    Aha. My point exactly. There IS a difference. I told her first I wanted to go back to TEVA before running to the family doctor. I have been on meds for over 20 years and am pretty sure it is side effects and not a medical problem. So tomorrow I will go to some different phamacies hopefully and find the TEVA brand again. I have a feeling this will solve this sudden onset of side effects.

  10. CLS
    Reply

    While on brand Wellbutrin XL 300mg, which I used to take at 8am, I had no problems. However, after switching to the generic version (the big yellow pill), I would feel ok until noon or 1pm, and then I would be exhausted for the rest of the day.
    After reading several reports on how quickly the medication is released for the brand and generic, I decided to change the timing of my medication. Now, I take all of my other medication at 8am, and then take the generic Budeprion XL 300mg at 2pm in the afternoon. I still feel exhausted much of the time (a problem I never had on the brand medication), though the change in timing has helped somewhat.
    My doctor told me to take this medication upon waking, as it is supposed to last 24 hours. Instead of taking at 8 in the morning, I take it several hours later in the late afternoon. There is NO WAY that the brand and generic medications are comparable. There is an obvious difference.

  11. CRCZ
    Reply

    I, too, had a very bad experience with the generic of Wellbutrin XL, Buproprion. I noticed one comment that stated “Christmas is going to be so much better”. I could really relate.
    My Christmas was terrible, and I thought I was sinking back into a depression from which I could not recover. Mood swings and thoughts of suicide resurfaced — which I had not had in all the years on Wellbutrin.
    By sheer coincidence in January ’08, I was surfing the net and found this information on Peoples Pharmacy. I knew I enjoyed the information on Peoples Pharmacy but now I think I owe them (and all of you who wrote to them) my sanity.
    Immediately I contact my doctor and within 3 days of going back to Wellbutrin XL, I was “myself” again.
    I am one of the fortunate people who is blessed with very good company health insurance. Even so, last year, I paid through a mail-in pharmacy. Even so, the cost of Wellbutrin XL DOUBLED after the generic was introduced. And the generic was so inexpensive that it was a “no-brainer” to make the switch.
    I am outraged that we are placed in a difficult financial position because the FDA approved a drug that is NOT the same as the original. And, don’t even get me started on the insurance companies or the drug company who, dare I say, lied in order to get their generic to the marketplace.
    I have written to the FDA and the insurance company. And, I gave my doctor a big HEADS UP!! I hate to think about those people who have not found out the differences in the two medications and are suffering needlessly!
    In my opinion — this is wrong and can be life-threatening. What can be done?

  12. RJC
    Reply

    This is a follow-up to my comments on February 11, 2008. I am just starting to get my libido back and was able to have sex with my wife this weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but enough to believe the Teva is starting to kick in. I am most likely past the Anchen drug-induced erectile dysfunction and into some degree of performance anxiety now. This will most likely go away with time. I experienced psychogenic erectile dysfunction four years ago when I developed bipolar disorder which was undiagnosed at the time. So I am well familiar with the steps and time it takes to get back from psychogenic erectile dysfunction.
    But I wish to clarify my position on generic drugs. From my experience and reading those of others, I don’t view the generic drug companies as doing wrong when they develop a generic drug which causes different reactions on different people. It is necessary they develop generics in order to keep costs down. I have found that Teva Budeprion XL 300 mg works great for me and for others. In fact, even better for me than Wellbutrin XL 300 mg because I have better libido on the Teva. But others have found Teva to be a disaster for them. And myself and others have found Anchen Buproprion Hcl XL 300 mg to be a disaster.
    So I don’t believe you can really blame the drug companies for varying reactions from their drugs. But what I view to be medical negligence is that they do not put a warning on their drug literature which informs you that switching between different brands can produce significantly different reactions in different people. They do warn you of the potential negative side effects of the drug itself. But they do not warn you that negative side effects could occur when switching brands. If they would only do this, at least people would be informed of what could happen.
    I don’t blame the Anchen drug company for the fact that their drug didn’t work for me. I’m sure it works great for others. But I do blame them for not providing the necessary warning. This also applies to brand Wellbutrin, Teva and any other generics developed in the future. All need to provide the global warning that switching to their brand of the same drug could potentially cause significantly different reactions from the previous brand you may have been taking.

  13. RJC
    Reply

    I was stable on both Wellbutrin XL 300 mg and later on Teva Budeprion XL 300 mg when my insurance company switched to the Teva generic. I had no problems whatsoever on the Teva generic. If anything, I experienced increased libido on the Teva.
    In January 2008, my insurance company switched from Teva Budeprion XL 300 mg to Anchen Buproprion XL Hcl 300 mg. I thought nothing of switching from Teva to Anchen because I had no problem switching from brand name Wellbutrin to Teva. But four days after switching to Anchen I experienced decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. It happened overnight. I also had a change in bowel habits. I was going only once a day prior and when switching to Anchen it was at least five times a day.
    At first I couldn’t understand what was happening, because I didn’t have any change in eating habits. After 23 days on Anchen I switched back to Teva. The first day I went back on Teva I was again going only once a day. There is no question that the change was due to the Anchen. I have been back on the Teva for four days but am still experiencing decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. On the second day back on Teva I also started experiencing light-headedness. It was the same light-headedness as when I first went on Wellbutrin. But I did not experience it when I switched from Wellbutrin to Teva. I regret I ever switched to Anchen. But I couldn’t believe the FDA, drug and insurance companies would ever allow this kind of thing to happen.
    I am only hoping that in time I can stabilize again on the Teva. I no longer trust generics, the FDA, the drug companies, or the insurance companies. I am keeping complete documentation of what is happening along with the Anchen pills in the event there is ever a class-action lawsuit against the drug companies.

  14. TN
    Reply

    I was going to my doctor in the morning and I was going to ask her to switch me back to my Wellbutrin XL… I was put on the generic when my insurance company said they wouldn’t pay unless my doctor insisted on it. I guess it’s been about 7-8 months. Since then, I’ve been soooo moody! It’s mostly irritable and I’ve gained weight. My weight has been the same for 5 years and Wellbutrin XL and another drug I take (Topamax) typically do not make you gain weight. If anything, you would lose weight. After stumbling across this page, I am insisting she switch me back or I will seek out another doctor. I haven’t gotten to the depressed or suicidal stage (yet), but definitely very irritable then sad. My co-workers and family must think I have multiple personalities.

  15. NT
    Reply

    I have experienced problems with generic Wellbutrin. After taking it successfully for a year, I received a blue colored version from my pharmacy. I asked about it because it looked different from what I had taken before and was told it was a generic.
    I did not think anything of it. However, my symptoms have been steadily increasing: no energy, hopelessness, forgetfulness, suicidal thoughts.
    This morning I read an editorial in the newspaper about generic antidepressants and realized that my increased symptoms date back to the switch. I phoned my doctor right away.
    People’s Pharmacy was quoted in the article so I came to its website for more information. I am so grateful for this website!

  16. sg
    Reply

    I was switched to generic wellbutrin and what a huge difference it made in the quality of my life. I thought it was me, never knowing that the generic version was ineffective until I learned this from a friend who works in psychiatry who indicated that it was well known in psychiatric circles that generic wellbutrin was ineffective. i immediately switched to the brand name and within days was amazed at how much better I felt. This Christmas will be so much better for that piece of knowledge. The generic version should be banned!!!

  17. JMW
    Reply

    I thought I was insane until reading this! I took Wellbutrin XL for nearly 1.5 yrs or more and then hit a financial hardship period and went on the generic. Oh dear God… I’ve suffered for the past two months (and it’s late fall which is my worst time of depression) because of this stupid generic drug! Generic costs $10/mth while the name brand costs $50/mth. Why offer something that is obviously not as effective? Why can’t the makers offer more help to those of us who actually pay for health premiums and then copays? I feel sorry for anyone who does NOT have the insurance to cover this stuff.

  18. K.R.
    Reply

    I have had a personal experience with a problem with generics. I had been prescribed Remeron (which is a mild anti-depressant) for treatment of a gastro-intestinal disorder. I experienced almost immediate relief when I started taking Remeron and still take it once daily.
    At one point my prescription drug provider/insurer switched my prescription to the generic, which is mirtazapine, without my knowledge or consent. (I admit that I should have realized it right away and I won’t make the mistake of taking any prescriptions in the future without first verifying that it is EXACTLY what I was expecting to be taking.) I became ill again within a couple of weeks of taking the generic and it wasn’t until I consulted with my doctor’s office that we realized what the problem probably was. When I got back on the brand name version, I started to feel better almost immediately.
    What is particularly upsetting about this is that this past year our prescription drug provider/insurer was switched to a new company. This new company has been very aggressive in pushing generic versions of prescribed drugs and I had a terrible fight with them until they agreed to provide me with the branded version of my prescription. I am all for saving money on generics if they work, but there is no savings if you are paying for generic versions of prescribed drugs that don’t help and are possibly causing dangerous problems due to their ineffectiveness.

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