a bottle of budeprion xl 300mg

A decade ago we received a message from J. in Danville, New York. She said:

“I have been taking Budeprion XL 300 mg for three months instead of Wellbutrin XL 300 mg. I find that I am easily upset and cry very easily. Sometimes I feel aggressive. I also have short, stabbing pains in my head. Taking the brand-name drug (Wellbutrin) helped me feel the best I have felt in twenty years–not depressed and able to enjoy being with my family and friends.”

That letter started a saga of woe and intrigue with the Food and Drug administration. When we published J’s message in our syndicated newspaper column, we started hearing from other people with similar stories. At first it was dozens of letters. Then scores. Eventually hundreds of people wrote to say that Budeprion XL 300 and some other generic bupropion products were not working as well as Wellbutrin.

We sent these messages on to the FDA. The answer from executives at the agency was that this was all a tempest in a tea pot. These were psychosomatic reactions (headache, anxiety, irritability, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, tremor, mood swings, panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc). A highly-placed FDA staffer insisted that such side effects could not be brought on by the generic drug. Budeprion and Wellbutrin were supposed to be identical.

After five years of arm-wrestling the FDA, we learned that the agency would request removal of Budeprion XL 300 and some other generic bupropion products. At long last the FDA admitted that there were problems with the absorption of these generics. They were not considered “bioequivalent.” Here is a post we wrote nearly five years ago.

Patients Vindicated! Generic Wellbutrin Withdrawn

Fast Forward to Bupropion 2017:

We had hoped that the problems with generic Wellbutrin (bupropion) were behind us. Officials at the FDA seemed more vigilant about approving this generic product. Sadly, we are starting to hear from readers again that they are experiencing problems. Here is the latest story:

Q. I believe you helped reveal the generic Wellbutrin (bupropion) failures several years ago. Is there any chance that there are still problems with some generic pills?

I have chronic fatigue, for which I take bupropion. About eight months ago, I started having bad nausea every single day. I tried everything, but the only thing that helped was Dramamine, which made me too drowsy to function. I even tried lowering my dose of bupropion, but the nausea didn’t go away. (My morning dose stayed the same.)

I read a recent news article (Bloomberg) about the differences between generic and brand-name drugs. I realized the release mechanism of my morning pills might be the problem. I take two bupropion in the morning, get nauseated and crash around midday.

I’m convinced that the pills are dumping the active ingredient in my system far too quickly, causing that rollercoaster side effect profile. It started when I got a new job and thus, a new online pharmacy that sent a different generic.

After that insight, I switched to a longer-acting version and I haven’t been nauseous since. Does the FDA do testing for this type of problem?

A. We alerted the FDA to problems with generic Wellbutrin (bupropion) back in 2007. It took five years for the agency to acknowledge there was a serious problem with some slow-release bupropion formulations. Although these drugs were removed from the market, we have continued to receive complaints about certain generic products. The FDA doesn’t test samples submitted by individuals.

Other Readers Complaining about Generic Wellbutrin (bupropion)

Inez in Preston, MD:

“I have been taking Wellbutrin for years. Of course insurance required a change to generic bupropion. I tried it and it DID work. My pharmacy changed to a different manufacturer. The pills even looked different.

“It was bupropion XL. After a week of headaches, nausea, vivid dreams, etc. (felt like withdrawal; like I wasn’t even taking it) I realized that is the only change and symptoms started a day after the change.”

Carolyn in Colorado:

“I had been on Wellbutrin for 20 years or so. Bupropion or what ever that pill is had an horrible effect on me. It took a year or so to find the right one in the first place. I have tried what they call bupropion and had a horrible time. It also smells like sulfur which I am allergic to.

“Tried another which did not work. Horrible. I am having a terrible time not wanting to end it all. I feel that I can not make it and just want to leave. Why mess with something that works?”

John in Texas reports a similar situation:

“Reading these entries is rather alarming. I have been taking the round small bupropion XL for 2 years. I experienced a drastic improvement in my bipolar 2 depressive symptoms.

“Within the last 2-3 weeks of taking the same dosage, but a new manufacturer, I am having suicidal ideations. These thoughts are persistent. I have never considered thoughts such as these…ever! This manufacturer was just approved. It’s an oblong, white pill. Anyone else out there going through anything similar?”

Laura in Arkansas feels blindsided:

“I feel like I’ve been blindsided by the manufacturers of name brand Wellbutrin. I used to take it and it was affordable. Now, I have no option. It’s too expensive to use. The drug companies get you used to using it then jack up the price so high nobody can afford to pay for it. Thanks manufacturer of name-brand Wellbutrin XL.”

Can You Believe the Price?

We just checked with our local chain pharmacy. The cost for one month’s supply (30 days) of brand name Wellbutrin XL 300 was $1,836. Yup, you read that right. That means each pill costs over $60. Put another way, a year’s supply of brand-name Wellbutrin XL 300 could cost a depressed patient over $20,000.

The original developer of Wellbutrin was Burroughs Wellcome. When that company was acquired, the drug became the property of GlaxoSmith Kline, now known as GSK. More recently, the drug was acquired by Valeant, a Canadian drug company.

We checked with PharmacyChecker.com. This organization compares prices. They say that Canadian pharmacies charge roughly between $1.30 and $2.19 per pill for the branded version of Wellbutrin XL 300.

The Canadian Option:

We have created a Guide to Saving Money on Medicine with tips on how to use generic drugs wisely. There are also legitimate Canadian pharmacies where you can buy brand-name drugs at more affordable prices. Access to this online resource may be found in our Guide section:

Share your own experience with Wellbutrin (bupropion) below in the comment section. While you are at it, please let the FDA know if you have had problems with either Wellbutrin or bupropion at their MedWatch site. We told executives at the agency that we are once again hearing about problems with this antidepressant but we are not sure whether they are really paying attention.

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  1. A.V.

    I had no idea anyone else had had this problem. The explanation provided makes a lot of sense. I had no problems with generics when I was taking 150mg bupropion XL, but when I tried to take 300mg XL at once (whether as a single 300mg XL pill or two 150mg XL pills), some generics caused severe grogginess starting mid-morning. I tried figuring out which ones caused it (not all of them did), but eventually I gave up and switched to taking 150mg bupropion SR twice a day instead.

  2. Cassandra

    I’m not sure if this happening to anyone else. But before, my pharmacists were always agreeable to ordering in the Actavis brand (the only generic that doesn’t give me migraines). Now they are saying that Corporate is telling them that they have to go with whatever is cheapest that month. How frightening that we have to alter meds monthly to whatever is cheapest. BTW, it cannot be bioequivalent. I actually get HBP on the other generics, which is a measurable effect. Hence, the request for Actavis only.

  3. Sharon
    Tucson AZ

    I too began to suffer depression when I first became an empty-nester. I tried to handle it myself, but I got more and more depressed as time wore on. I went to a psychiatrist and was prescribed Buproprion. It didn’t help very much, so my doctor kept raising my dosage. I was finally switched to a 300 mg XL generic, but I became increasingly more depressed as the weeks went by.

    I finally decided to bite the bullet and pay the copay for brand name. Oh my gosh! The difference was astounding! It was like someone took blinders off my eyes! I had focus and energy. My mood was good. I was no longer depressed. I even gained some weight but that’s because food didn’t taste like sawdust any longer. I had an appetite again. Life was good for several years. Then I approached retirement age. My doctor suggested I revisit the generic formulation since I wouldn’t be able to afford the brand name under Medicare Part D. I had several rough weeks. Insomnia, dizziness, mood swings. But my doctor felt my symptoms would improve, given time and patience. So I stuck with the generic until I became depressed once more.

    I finally told my doctor I refused to pay for something that was causing my depression to return and worsen. So I weaned off the generic Buproprion 300XL. Now I am not taking any meds, but am left living with a constant low level of depression. I can go back on the brand name but I can’t afford to pay for it. So I muddle through my miserable life now, taking it day by day. Sadly, I am a retired nurse. I had listened to many patient complaints over the years regarding the cost of medications, never thinking I’d have the very same issues after retirement.

    The FDA should not allow generics to have such wide differences in absorbability and effect. 20% is too great. I’ve had many doctors beg me to not switch to ANY generics due to the unreliability of the physical/mental effects. I thought the FDA was established to protect the food and drug consumers in the US. It seems like they’re doing the opposite lately.

  4. Susan
    United States

    Does anyone know why massive amounts of bupropion have been recalled the last six months? I can’t find a reason anywhere. Today I went to put away my rx I just got and saw that instead of the little round pills they were large oval pills with 142 on them. When I looked at the description on the bottle is still said they were supposed to be the round ones so I took them back to the pharmacy. It was an “error” that they hadn’t updated the label.

    The pharmacist informed me normally this wouldn’t happen but given I was on 300mg bupropion xl he wasn’t surprised do to the difficulty they were having getting it, all the brand changes and having to have patients change their orders to 2 pills 150mg until they ran out of those as well. The reason for the shortage he said was a massive recall on bupropion 300mg xl starting 6 months ago. I asked if they bothered to inform their customers as I hadn’t heard of this and have taken it for years.

    I was told they weren’t required to inform patients unless it was a class 1 recall that could cause serious injury to a patient and this was a 2 or 3 class recall so no notifications were warranted. He didn’t seem to know why the meds were recalled. After reading everyone’s comments I wonder why even more as I’ve been on this for years and thought it just wasn’t working as well for me the last year or that life just sucked more than normal.

    I know the manufacturer had been switched before on me but I don’t recall when and wouldn’t have suspected it of being the cause of the symptoms I’ve been having as I know they are SUPPOSED to be the same. Now I wonder??? And why is there nothing, that I have been able to find, explaining what the issue with it was this year (2018) but I find issues from 4-5 years ago? This is frustrating!

  5. Daneey
    escondido, CA

    Back in 2011 I started on brand name Wellbutrin. It was awesome. I had more energy, focus and was happier. Then I was forced to take generic version. Within a few days I had a stiff neck, splitting headache and had trouble swallowing. Something was definately different!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the doctor kept telling me they were “equivalent.”

    I was so shocked and angry about such a blatant disregard for an obvious TOXIC drug scam that I have never gone back to any pharmaceuticals, except when it’s PRN for pain. Even then, this experience made me lose my faith in pharmaceuticals and the ability of doctors to discern the difference between generic and brand names. I mean, really?

    I wanted my doctor to say, yep, that is BS, I’m writing you a brand name because it’s medically necessary. Didn’t even offer. I guess I had to be an advocate for myself, maybe that would’ve helped, but it was the apathy and “oh well,” I guess it didn’t work and ignore the generic reaction side of it that totally turned me off.

  6. Barbara
    Southern California

    Good morning! Today is August 14, 2018. I feel the need to share my experience with the changes made to my antidepressant, Wellbutrin. I was prescribed wellbutrin 300, and I’ve taken it (the oblong shaped, marked 142, Bupropion Hcl XI tabs 300 mg) for over 12 years. On August 3 2018, my pharmacy sent me a different brand or type of Bupropion Hcl XI. It is round and is marked ST300. I started taking this new brand on the 6th of August and have had the worst time ever! I feel so much rage! I am agitated and hate everyone and anything! How can this happen? I feel like I am in a downward spin and escalating!

    Today I realized these feelings of rage began when I started taking this new Bupropion round pill marked ST300. I called my doctor this morning to inform her of my reactions and to enlist her assistance. She explained that many people react differently when pharmacies use a different manufacturer to fill prescriptions. I am so grateful that she listened and requested a change; back to the original medication. I will share my reactions, if any, once the medication is changed, and I start taking it.

    My wish for all of you is this: Please speak to your doctors, and ask for assistance and pray that you will get well soon.

  7. Barbara

    Have been on Buropion XL 150MG x two for years (about 12+), then some seven or so years ago they didn’t seem to be working as well. My doctor added Prosaic (which didn’t change anything); and then stopped the Prosaic and added another 150MG of Buropion XL. Have been taking 450MG for five years or so. The pharmacies are forever changing manufacturers. I am loosing too much weight because no foods hold any appeal; having trouble starting and sticking with tasks; am forgetful; and feeling that emptiness that comes with my depression. Had my thyroid and Vit D levels checked, all is good.

    Began thinking I may need to change antidepressants. After reading others’ comments above, I wonder if my system is just reacting negatively to the various manufacturers’ versions of Buropion XL. Is it even safe to be in the same medication for so many years? Is less ever more…meaning maybe ask my doctor about reducing my dosage.

  8. Denise
    North Carolina

    I had a “breakdown” in 2014 and ended up trying to go see my daughter (in heaven) sooner than I should have. After 3 weeks in the hospital and a combination of therapies, my Doctor put me on bupropion XL. I took the oval shaped pill with the number 142 on it and have been able to function in society again. 6 months ago I switched pharmacies because my insurance changed and it was going to be more affordable if I did. The pill changed to a round pill. For three months I was completely spiraling down the wrong direction and even though of suicide. Along with headaches, dizziness, nausea and tremors it was as if I was not taking the medicine at all. It took me two weeks to realize the only thing that had changed was the new round pill. My Doctor called in a new prescription at my old pharmacy and luckily my “cash price” was way cheaper than the insurance price copay! Well new dilemma, my old pharmacy has switched to the round pill. I even contacted the FDA and they said it was impossible for this reaction to be happening. Guess I will have to get so suicidal again to prove a point. Frustrated

  9. Wendy

    I was taking the generic round version, and it was great. They switched me to an oval pill with 142 on it, and I started having BP spikes. My BP normally runs 90s/60s, and it would spike to 150s/90s. Felt nauseous and had headaches from only taking the new pill for 3 weeks. My GP changed me to a completely different drug as of today because my insurance won’t allow me to “pick and choose” which shape pill I take.

  10. Mary

    If a generic cannot be found that works for me, I will seriously consider buying the brand name from a Canadian Pharmacy. Which one is trustworthy? Thanks

    • Gail

      I take the Wellbutrin 300 XL from Canada and it is working fine. It is not a generic, they have generic, but I order the name brand. I had trouble with all generics in US. Last one even gave me auditory hallucinations. I use Pharmstore.com and have no problems at all. Use a Canadian pharmacy with a certication that they belong to CIPA.

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