The Food and Drug Administration has issued a long-awaited report on the quality of a generic antidepressant. Last October the FDA reported that one generic form of the drug Wellbutrin did not meet its bioequivalence standards. This long-acting form of bupropion was unceremoniously pulled off the market. This was the first time in recent memory that a generic medication approved by the FDA was later determined to be inadequate.

At that time the FDA required all generic forms of the long-acting 300 mg formulation to be tested to see if they were identical to the brand name Wellbutrin. While products from Mylan, Actavis and Par were acceptable, the Watson form was deemed not therapeutically equivalent to Wellbutrin XL 300. The drug will be voluntarily withdrawn. 

[FDA, Oct. 10, 2013]

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  1. RT
    New Jersey

    I have lived with major depression for the last 25 years of my life. I have always been able to maintain my illness without having to be hospitalized. In 2014 I took a vacation out of state and accidentally didn’t remember my meds: synthroid, paroxetine hcl 30mg and bupropion xl 300mg. My primary doctor called in a prescription to the pharmacy. When I picked up the medicine the bupropion xl was a different pill than I usually took. I mentioned to the pharmacist that it looked different from what I usually take. He assured me not to worry. It was exactly the same.

    I took the meds, and after having three doses of Teva/ActAVIS bupropion xl 300mg, I experienced a major panic attack. Never having had one before I had no idea what was happening to me or why. I ended up in the emergency room. At that time I did not realize that it was a reaction to the bupropion xl. Here I am three years later. I changed companies I work for and with that I get my prescriptions filled by a different mail-order pharmacy. They send me bupropion xl 300mg manufactured by ActAVIS. Again, I noticed the different look of the pill but like everyone has told me “all generic medicine is exactly the same as the brand name.” I didn’t think much of it.

    After taking the pill for three days, for the second time in my life I experienced a major panic attack, again sending me to the emergency room. This is my confirmation that the only two panic attacks and two trips to the emergency room I’ve ever had in my life were caused by the Teva/ActAVIS manufactured bupropion xl 300mg tablets. After querying the internet about this medication I came to find out that the bupropion xl 300mg tablet were “voluntarily” taken off the market by Teva. I find it very interesting that Teva acquired ActAVIS, which is the manufacturer of the bupropion xl that caused me to have a panic attack.

  2. John

    My wife has been taking many anti depressants for 15+ years. Many of them with with one brand or another of bupropion. What we know to be true is that the biggest difference between generic brands is their delivery system. ie, what prolongs the distribution into the blood system.

    The original manufactures patents ran out way before the distribution apparatus and hence the difference. I have been told that to meet equivalence criteria, a brand only requires to be within 80%. which is fine if you end up with the right dose.

    Switch to another brand, and you also change dosage. Remember with these drugs that more is not always more effective, and that with all drugs, you can build a tolerance and efficacy is not always resolved with larger doses.

  3. Joel

    I have been taking the Watson brand generic bupropion sr 150 for years.It has been a lifesaver for me. In the last couple of months I have been experiencing a return of my depression and some side effects that I normally don,t experience I.e. Slight tremors and anxiousness. I am in a quandary as to why this is happening. The only change I have noticed is the appearance of the bottle the pills come in.I have read there were problems with the Watson bupropion XL. Is anyone noticing a difference in the Watson SR version?

    • alison

      Did you ever figure out what the difference was?

    • k

      Over the years I have taken several different versions/brands of generic wellbutrin xl, none of them was ever 100%. It generally changed when the pharmacy just switched with out letting me know. However I have never had any real issues until about a year ago when I was switched to a white pill apparently made by watson.

      I began having severe heart issues, high blood pressure, serious anxiety, etc. I didn’t put the two together until 6 months after I had been to the cardiologist several times. I never had any issues and previously wasn’t aware of the “allowances to generic makeup”. After stoping the medicine I felt 80 % better within a week and did some research only to find that there are 13 additional inactive ingredients in the current watson version than there are in brand name, 7 additional inactive ingredients than the previous version of watson and 9 additional ingredients than the Teva/Par version!!!

      I was never aware that companies were able to add whatever they felt regardless the effect. This is leading to all the symptoms that i had. I am currently fighting my insurance company to have them cover the brand name that I need, but because of all these issues the company is able to charge over the moon cost for brand.

      It is a very sad, continuous cycle that appears to be several years long and doesn’t look to be stopping. It shouldn’t be ok for these companies to create half way drugs with potentially lethal effects at the cost of consumers, that have little to no choice. Take meds to help emotionally, hope that you are taking something that won’t be equally as bad for you physically.

  4. Geoff
    West Virginia

    Last November I had a seemingly functional friend commit suicide. He was taking prednizone and had been switched over to Wellbutrin. He became agitated and depressed and when left alone shot himself. Was the faulty generic Wellbutrin still out there? And what might the combination of Wellbutrin and prednizone have done to his state of mind?

    • Helen Marie Daff
      Parkersburg West Virginia

      I do believe that the antidepressants are responsible for the suicides. I had this happen to me taking Wellbutrin. I was taking Watson 100 SR . I began being sick at my stomach becoming very very scared and fearful. I didn’t realize at first what was happening . The more I took and the longer I took it the more depressed and suicidal I got. Then I got the 75 milligram Apotex brand in the first day I took it I knew something wasn’t right. I was almost hysterical, crying, wanting to die. I finally had it compounded thinking that would be better and the same thing happened. When I went to increase the dose thinking that I wasn’t taking enough that I became much worse. Too scared to leave the house and very very suicidal. Until it happens to you it’s hard to understand. When it is caused from the medication the feelings are so strong. It’s because the medicine changes your brain you become very depressed with no reason to live. These drugs are very very dangerous! That was two months ago and I’m still dealing with the anxiety which I never had before taking these meds and suicidal thoughts. It did something that changed me. This was three different generic brands of Wellbutrin !!! If consumer labs can test these then why can’t the FDA? Every one of the generic wellbutrin should be pulled from the market until the FDA test each one instead of letting the company test them and submit the report.

      I say yes definitely this is what contributed to your friends suicide. When I told the pharmacy they didn’t even care let alone report it. Actually the one Pharmacy argued with me that the generic and brand name was the same and that the FDA would back that. Do they not see these reports?

  5. Carol

    Where can I find comparisons of the various generic meds? I once saw a chart of the bioavailability of about 10 generic versions of Wellbutrin. The info was from a study testing the blood levels found in patients after various numbers of hours. It was great info. I need it again and am unable to find it. I used the brands Wellbutrin and Prozac with good results for years. Tried generic Wellbutrin and quickly became very depressed again. Resolved to pay for the brand name for the rest of my life. Insurance changed and I stopped taking Prozac. Found myself depressed, unable to get out of bed, unable to go to work most days and not doing a very good job when I could go in. Tried generic Prozac and felt as if there was a small electric current running through my chest and remembered having the same experience 10 plus years ago. Stopped taking the generic and found a mail order company which offered brand Prozac for about $30 less for a 90 day supply. Now resolved to paying about $100 each month for these brand meds until retirement.

    After retirement our health care insurance will pay only what they would pay for the generic. They also use only one supplier for all meds. Retirement is in another year or so. I’ll contact the med supply company to find out the final cost. In the mean time I’m looking for the best quality generic Prozac and Wellbutrin. Would like to give them a try. If they work I’m hoping that they’ll be available through the supplier used by our retirement insurance. Thanks for all of the great info here.

  6. Keith
    United States

    I was bumped up from Bupropion 150XL (Global) to 300XL (Anchen). After three miserable months and getting worse, I decided to write a letter to my doc asking if I can take two 150’s instead. Then I did a Google search and found what most have seen. Only some brands work for you and that according to the comments is subject to change as these suppliers continue to merge and who knows what we are getting.

  7. Barbara
    United States

    I’ve been on antidepressants most of my adult life. When I was 21 I had ovarian cancer and my body was thrown into menopause after a total hysterectomy – 50 years ago. Most recently I was taking Bupropion 150 and it wasn’t helping so my doctor bumped up the RX to 300mg HCL made by Anchen. It didn’t help and slowly made my depression much worse, to a point where I considered suicide. I had no energy, spent most of my days in bed sleeping and watching TV and wanted no contact with anyone.

    I called my physician and told her I couldn’t take the Bupropion any longer and we discussed options. I’d taken Prozac (among others) many years ago and did well on it for a long time. Eventually the depression arose again and I was moved to another antidepressant. So my doctor suggested I try the Prozac again. So started Fluoxetine HCL 20 mg made by Sandoz.

    On the second day, I broke out in hives, took it one more day and quit! I’m currently not taking any antidepressant at all and hoping for the best.

    With so many problems with prescription drugs for so many people, shame on the FDA for not doing a better job in monitoring what the pharmaceutical manufacturers are putting in their products!

    • Oliver
      United States

      The FDA is run by Wall Street, and Wall Street only knows profit. Sorry to hear about your story.

  8. Jen

    I have been on Generic Wellbutrin for past 4 months. At first I had this pretty circle pill from Anchen and it worked like a miracle… I was really happy with the results and all that. Throughout increasing my dosage and refilling my pills, I somehow got the pill that is oval and not as shiny and has 142 on (yes, the one from Actavis) Both myself and my spouse know- I have been acting like I do not take any pills and almost felt like I was completely withdrawn. I just re-filled my pills last night and accidentally (?) got my circle pill again – it got me curious and I have been searching this morning to see what the differences are between 142 and 102… and now I see it. I am not the only one who suffered from 142 pills as it does not do a thing for me. I am back on 102 from Anchen and I hope it works as it did four months ago.

    • Aaron

      Jen, I had the same problem recently. I was on the Watson 3332 pill for a month, felt great towards the end, then got switched to the Actavis 142. Two days after switching I began feeling worse. I checked my food diary, mood charts, everything; I concluded there was nothing to throw off my mood except for the pill. That was a month ago and I’ve felt “meh” this whole month. Now I have the Anchen 102 pill, which looks very similar and has mostly the same inactive ingredients as the Watson pill I liked. We’ll see how this switch goes… Hopefully the circle pill is the magic one!!

    • Ann
      United States

      I received the Actavis 142 generic yesterday and I knew within hours it wasn’t working at all. Today is even worse. I called the pharmacy, and was assured that it’s the same; I thought perhaps I was succumbing to my own fears regarding the switch. Last night I came home cranky and exhausted. Today was worse: can’t concentrate, foggy head, unproductive and desperate for bedtime at 4 p.m. Thanks to others sharing their experiences, I told the pharmacist that this medication was NOT working and insisted on returning it. I told him I knew for a FACT that Actavis had merged with the company (Watson) responsible for recent recalls on their generic, and that they were the SAME company who dragged their feet for months when the FDA requested bioequivalence test results only about a year ago.

      My previous generic was Par, and I had no issues with it. The pharmacist promised he’d have the Par in tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Otherwise, I told him, I’m paying extra for brand. I can’t imagine continuing like this another day. My body feels like it’s underwater. I don’t think the FDA should consider itself done with this mess!

      • Amy C.
        Syracuse NY

        I am finding out that I was given the replacement brand Anchen for my Bupropion this last month also…. and I have most definitely noticed that it does not work.
        I have asked the pharmacist to switch me back to the brand I did notice worked. (Actavis) I’m so very glad I survived this month.
        Thanks so much for posting this. I thought this med in general must not work for me anymore and it’s nice to know now that there is a brand issue involved. Thanks again :-)

      • Amy C.
        United States

        I am finding out that I was given the replacement brand Anchen for my Bupropion this last month also ….. and I have most definitely noticed that it does not work…!!
        I have asked the pharmacist to switch me back to the brand I did notice worked…. being Actavis…. Thanks so much for posting this…. I thought this med in general must not work for me anymore…. nice to know now that there is a brand issue involved …. !!! Thanks again :-)

      • Amy
        United States

        I am finding out that I was given the replacement brand Anchen for my Bupropion this last month also ….. and I have most definitely noticed that it does not work…!!
        I have asked the pharmacist to switch me back to the brand I did notice worked…. being Actavis…. Thanks so much for posting this…. I thought this med in general must not work for me anymore…. nice to know now that there is a brand issue involved …. !!!
        …. Thanks again :-)

      • Rick

        You can get the brand for $50 for 30 pills, 150 or 300mg thru a Wellness program savings card operated by Wellbutrin.
        I just ordered mine and these people are really nice.

        • Michele

          I just got off the phone with them and I agree with Rick. My insurance completely flatly refused to cover my brand Wellbutrin XL after three years of being on it. I started generic a few days ago and am utterly nauseated and dizzy, my stomach is a mess, haven’t even been able to go to work. Went to my doctor and told him about this $50 deal and he looked up the specialty pharmacy (in link above) in his computer system. He sent over an electronic prescription, I called when I got home, and I’m all set to have it mailed to me on a regular basis. I’m counting down the days until it arrives – this generic is killing me.

        • Grace

          Could you please put a link for this wellness program for Wellbutrin SR 100 MG for $50.00? Cannot seem to locate. Thank you so much!

  9. ray

    valeant is the name brand and has a program,i would look into that program it can save you lots of money….

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