Dollar bills (money)

There is no question that generic drugs can offer big savings. Sometimes it is worthwhile to see just how great the price difference might be.

Q. My sister takes brand name Ativan, as her doctor does not want her on the generic. The cost to the insurance company every three months is nearly $10,000. Her copay is $100.00.

She ran low due to a mix-up at her drugstore and had to pay for 42 pills out of her own pocket. That came to $377.00. This is outlandish!

Brand-Name vs Generic Costs:

A. Ativan is a striking example of the difference between the cost of generic and brand-name medicine. In our area, generic lorazepam runs between $10 and $12 for a month’s supply, while the brand name is around $2500.

We assume that the 42 pills your sister had to pay for was a two-week supply. Lorazepam (Ativan) is a relatively short-acting benzodiazepine that is taken two or three times a day for anxiety or anxious depression.

Why Not Take the Generic?

Some readers may be wondering why her doctor insists on brand-name medication Ativan, especially given that generic lorazepam is so inexpensive. Others may recall that we have written previously about the unreliability of certain generic medications. While we have no way of knowing whether there are problems with lorazepam, the fact that the majority of generic drugs are made abroad gives some doctors pause.

When the brand-name drug is intended to control seizures (as, for example, Lamictal or Keppra), administering a generic version that doesn’t work as well can be disastrous. Here is a previous discussion of generic drugs that may be of interest.

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  1. Bev

    I would like to know how many generic brands there are for Ativan. They do not work for me. Also what % of actual med is in the generic by law. My one doctor who is brutally honest says 85% and another says it is less. Anyone know?

  2. John
    Weatherly, Pa.

    I have been using Ativan, off and on, for anxiety/depression for 30 years. Never more than 1/2 mg AM and PM. I had to switch from the brand to generic in 2013 due to the rising cost. I noticed a difference immediately. Because I don’t take it on a regular basis my pharmacist didn’t think it was a big deal. While cleaning out our medicine cabinet, I found a bottle of name brand Ativan from 2013. My pharmacist said it only has a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. It wouldn’t hurt me, but it would have no effect.

    Having a heart condition that acts up once in a while I get anxiety attacks. I tried 1/2 mg of the old Ativan, and it acted faster and lasted longer (40 hrs.) than any Lorazapam. So I can see how someone can get addicted to these meds. You have to take more to get the same effect. The ones made in India are garbage. In my experience, the ones made in America are somewhat better, but unless you use a medication like this, do not tell me they are identical. They are not!

  3. Judi*

    I am so glad to read that others have been experiencing/saying the same exact thing as I have been stating for so long now. I’ve had a few people from generic companies I’ve called swear that their products are the exact same as brand name. I told them “NO” they are not, and I should know, I’M the one taking them. It’s despicable, to price gouge like they have been.

    I don’t want to pay the full price of the brand name, but I’ve already tried 3 different generics & I don’t feel that good from them. I was on one that was almost as good, but of course, they stopped making it. Now, I’m stumped as to what to do. I’ve been taking the cr*ppy ones, but I don’t like them. I might break down & pay the outlandish amount for the brand, but I really can’t afford to, or should I have to!!!!

  4. Jerry H.

    Ativan is a required drug for my wife health problems, which were all caused by previous Doctors treatments. An overdose of anestesia caused Tremors that have never gotten any better. Name brand Ativan is the only help for this condition. We have tried the generics with no success.

    As a matter of fact, she even had reactions when taking the so called equivalent generic drugs. The brand drug costs $3,460.00 for 90 pills per month in Tennessee. We have been blessed with insurance that has covered 90% of the costs until now. However, I will be losing my insurance in 3 months due to a shortage of work. We will be forced to rely on Medicare and that drug insurance will not cover brand name drugs.

    I think it is truly a criminal act for the drug companies to charge so much for such an old well established drug that has NO EQUIVALENT GENERIC!

    Shame on the drug companies, the US Government and the so called FDA for letting this happen to honest hard working citizens!

    • Judi*

      That happened to me, I found a generic that was perfect for me, but they discontinued it. Then I found two others that weren’t as good, but passable, but they discontinued them too. I freaked out BIG time. I’m taking the name brand that my doctor requested I had to take, and honestly, isn’t as good as the original generic I was taking for years. I give up!

  5. G. Bender
    Kennewick, WA

    Is it possible to get a mailing address for the manufacturer of Ativan? It would be nice to be able to send them a letter questioning the cost of the drug.


    FDA? Who’s over this program? Again, Generic Drugs are NOT the same!


    The FDA says Generic drugs are the same as Brand Name Drugs. Well, you get what you pay for! They are NOT the same! I know ! I have Chronic Migraines, They have gotten out of control.

    I would like to meet this guy who is responsible for this stupid sitution. Again, they are NOT the same!!!! I have used all my savings, and now what? I know what the price is from 4 different sources and where they come from. IT IS NOT MADE IN THE U.S.

  8. Heidi

    Unfortunately, our health is controlled by the drug companies and the insurance companies. Both without a conscience or compassion. When you take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens by pricing your product out of their financial reach you place their lives at risk. Shame on gouging drug companies!

  9. jean

    Noticed a big difference n prozac . Generic does not work as well.Can’t afford to get brand, but need to. Outrageous price difference Help !

  10. Cindy Black

    I worked in psych for many many years, and Ativan is the “go-to” drug that some 95% of patients are given as a PRN medication for agitation. This is true for every psych unit. I simply cannot believe that this med could possibly cost that much! This med is very old, well-established and massively used. A price like that is utterly ridiculous. No freakin way should it cost that much. Infuriating.

  11. charlett hobart
    new york

    Thank you for this vital information

  12. Calista R.
    Dorothy, NJ

    Yes, I have big issues with generic drugs. I have a mentally challenged child who has been on Intuniv. In June the Dr. told us she’d be getting the generic heretofore. I told her that I didn’t think it was a good thing, but she said the generics are fine. Well, it wasn’t fine & by Sept. we requested the real thing be available to us. The insurance would not cover the drug until the end of Sept. & when we inquired about purchasing the drug ourselves, we were told that would be $2,000!!! We were shocked at such a steep price & we waited until we could get the ‘real’ drug again. Why are the drug companies playing such games with us?? It almost makes me not want to use the Drs. & the drugs they prescribe.

  13. Heather

    Generic drugs almost all made in India or China very cheaply. Very little inspectors from FDA etc. FDA usually takes the word of the manufacturer all is up to standard. Go figure.

    Generics are not long lasting like Brand, absolutely do NOT have same amount of Brand ingredient and cheap nasty fillers.

    Get what you pay for and a slack government process not protecting consumers.

  14. Jim

    The only way to control drug prices is to socialize medicine.
    We live in a capitalistic free market society. Do we want the government to regulate and control pharmaceuticals like the Europeans do?

  15. Nora
    Wingdale, NY

    This is frightening because it is dangerous to just stop Adivan. Detox from benzodiazepines it dangerous and produces an exacerbation of the symptoms it is prescribed to suppress.
    After working for many years as a case manager in a detox unit, I have seen many people go through this process.
    A knowledgeable addiction psychiatrist might be able to properly address this problem.

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