a sad and depressed woman crying

Sertraline (Zoloft) is one of the most popular antidepressants in the pharmacy. According to our data, over 7 million people take this medicine every day in the United States. That means it beats out fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Celexa). But ever since Zoloft became available generically, we have heard complaints from visitors to this website. Many report that the generic version of Zoloft does not work as well as the brand name. This is reminiscent of the story of generic Wellbutrin that we reported several years ago. Is it possible to find a generic sertraline that works? This reader is in a quandary:

What Happened to Greenstone’s Generic Sertraline?

Q. I don’t mind taking generic drugs because I can’t afford brand name medicines. The effectiveness of generics varies so widely, though, that I get frustrated.

My doctor prescribed sertraline for depression and anxiety. The first version I took made me dizzy and gave me tremors. It also didn’t do much for my depression. I switched to Greenstone sertraline and that worked much better.

I have learned that Greenstone stopped making sertraline. What will I do?

A. Sertraline is the generic name for the antidepressant Zoloft. Until recently, Greenstone offered an “authorized generic,” identical to the brand name drug.

What’s An Authorized Generic?

Most patients and many pharmacists do not know what an authorized generic is. In a nutshell, it is a licensed generic formulation from the brand name manufacturer.

In other words, the brand name company strikes a deal with a generic manufacturer. The originator firm may supply the identical brand name pills directly to the generic company for rebranding as a generic. It may also license the exclusive manufacturing process so the generic drug can be made in an identical fashion to the brand name drug.

Greenstone is a subsidiary of the Pfizer brand name drug company. Not surprisingly, Greenstone often sells authorized generic formulations of Pfizer brand name drugs. For example, Viagra recently lost its patent protection. As a result, sildenafil is now available as an authorized generic from Greenstone.

If you want to learn more about authorized generic drugs, check out this link:

Save Money Safely With Authorized Generic Drugs

Sertraline That Works?

If you wanted to buy brand name Zoloft, it could cost over $300 for a month’s supply. In contrast, the generic sertraline is under $15 a month at most pharmacies. As you’ve pointed out, however, you won’t know how you will do on a particular generic until you try it.

Many people have reported problems with some generic forms of this drug. One visitor to our website wrote:

When the pharmacy changed manufacturers for my sertraline, I started on a downward spiral. I feel depressed, agitated, anxious, crabby, fatigued and unmotivated.”

Cynthia reported a similar situation:

I have been taking Sertraline (generic Zoloft) for 2 years for mood issues related to PMDD. My December refill marked a change in shape and a slight change in color due to a different manufacturer. I thought nothing of it since I have never had a noticeable issue with generics.

After a couple of days I realized I was not feeling very well. I realized I was actually feeling seriously blue and relentlessly depressed. I lived with this for about 3 weeks. It occurred to me that sertraline was no longer effective for me. It was hard to believe that I could feel that bad that fast. I know it’s possible, but that has never been the case for me.

I politely requested a name brand prescription for Zoloft from my physician. I tried the name brand with great improvement! I was so relieved.”

Gail in Houston had to search for sertraline that works:

Several years ago I had my sertraline prescription filled at CVS. It worked well.

“A year ago I started having horrible headaches and “brain zaps,” symptoms of abrupt withdrawal. I switched to Walgreens and started using a different generic, and it worked extremely well. Then last month my doctor sent my script to CVS electronically, and the generic they had was made by a different generic company. It has been a nightmare! Brain zaps, irritability, splitting headaches.

“I am switching back to Walgreens and the prior generic manufacturer immediately. I guess it goes to show that everyone is different and we know what works in our bodies.”

Penny in Dover, Florida, has had a hard time finding sertraline that works:

I took name brand Zoloft for over 7 years, and it saved my life.

“When the generic came out, of course this was the one my insurance wanted me to take. My life has gone to hell! No other pill has worked for me like the Zoloft did.

“The generic versions are nothing like Zoloft. I live through hell each day, because of generics. Zoloft is too expensive. I already pay to see one doctor. I have tried several antidepressants. None have helped me like the name brand Zoloft did. I only have old memories of much better days.”

Buying Affordable Brand Name Zoloft:

It is possible to purchase brand name Zoloft from a reputable Canadian online pharmacy. The cost for a month’s supply is between $40 and $80. That’s way better than the brand name price in the U.S. Be careful, though. Rogue online pharmacies sell counterfeit medications.

To learn more about authorized generics and reputable online pharmacies, you will want to read our online resource, Saving Money on Medicines, available at this link. We emphasize that this is a 22-page online resource with links and other practical information. It is not a printed pamphlet.

Share your own experience with sertraline that works below in the comment section.

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  1. Marcie
    Parrish, Florida
    Reply

    I am an RN. My husband has taken Zoloft 25mg and now the generic Sertraline since 2000 without problem until we used a mail- order pharmacy that filled the generic from Lupin, a drug company from India. We live in Florida and thought our generics were protected by state law. I have tried 5 pharmacies here in Parrish Florida and they all fill their sertraline with drugs from India. I have researched all the pharmacies, and they all have had FDA problems with their drugs in the recent past.

    What do we do? How do we tell what is a quality drug? My husband takes Eliquis which is a major cost problem for us because of the donut hole so going to Canada for sertraline is not an option. HELP!! I am so glad for your column–have read it for years and have gotten so much good advice. Thank you.

  2. Harriet B.
    NY
    Reply

    I have had problems when switching from brand-name Zoloft to a generic and have been buying the brand-name from Canada for years now. I’m also a journalist writing a story for a mainstream publisher about this issue and would love to chat (email or phone) with some of you who have also experienced problems. My email is harriet at harrietbrown dot com–please drop me a line if you’re willing to chat even briefly and/or let me use your story.

  3. Natalie
    USA
    Reply

    It looks like I won’t be able to afford brand name Zoloft at $335 per month after all, and I refuse to try a generic version that will most likely just make me feel worse.

    Let’s see… I know from personal experience that Teva generic brand meds have poor efficacy and are very inconsistent from batch to batch. Generic brand Aurobindo’s factory in India was recently cited for quality issues and lack of cleanliness by the USFDA (they have a poor track record concerning frequent citations of that nature). And from researching and reading of others experiences- it sounds like generic brand Lupin is just as bad as Teva. And I don’t have any time or patience left for experimenting with different levels of psychosis and misery.

    I’ve tried too many other generic antidepressants in the past that were of little to no help or just made me feel worse. And I am not doing that again. So that means I will be officially out of Zoloft on this Tuesday. So I guess I’ll just do a fast taper. Skip a day and cut the rest in half. Hope I don’t end up in the hospital. At least I have my brand name Klonopin for now.

    Anyone have any suggestions of affordable OTC things I could take for relief if I do experience intolerable Zoloft withdrawal symptoms during the next couple weeks?? We have a family beach trip coming up soon too… and I have my two very active toddlers to care for daily with no option for a sitter so staying in bed alone all day or “relaxing” to help cope is not an option for me.

  4. Natalie
    USA
    Reply

    I think we (or I) should/will start a petition on change.org about the lack of quality control, consistency & efficacy of generic medicines. It is a MAJOR problem that is completely underreported & ignored… hmm wonder why suicide rates have skyrocketed over the past decade- same with mass spree killings & murder/suicides (random & family oriented). But I digress… I love research. And Because of this website, I started on BRAND NAME Zoloft (50mg) in late December/January and qualified for their online Pfizer manufacturer discount card- so I was only paying $30 a month for it. Until today- I needed an increase in dosage to 100mg, and my insurance changed to Medicaid recently, which ended up voiding Pfizer’s discount card- they don’t allow Medicaid qualifiers. Which meant I was going to have to pay $335 (Rite Aid price) for 30 pills for my new refill today. So I’m now comparing different pharmacy prices and also seeing if I can find a different discount card online for it… because I like Zoloft & refuse to take its generic counterpart. Or even “try” it. I have a full time hardworking husband and two high energy toddlers and a big old dog to care of without any breaks or outside help, so I don’t have any time to feel like sick psycho zombie crap!! I’m sure MOST people don’t have time for that! And we shouldn’t ever have to go through feeling like that if the remedy to not have to feel like that exists!!!
    P.S. My pharmacist was like “just take the generic- it’s the same thing and only $1 for a month’s worth.” I was like, definitely NOT! No thank you. And That price range is ridiculous when everyone knows “you get what you pay for”. Not against ALL generic meds, just MOST. Dirt is free. Gold is not.

    Here’s my lengthy experience with generics vs. brand name meds (if it helps anyone):

    Generic thyroid medicines are dangerous crap that shouldn’t even be available because of how integral your thyroid functioning is to your entire body/mind system. For my Hypothyroidism, I used to take brand name Levoxyl but now I take brand Synthroid (I was auto switched awhile back during a batch recall of Levoxyl). I tried generic levothyroxine once for 2 months and it did not work at all. I know when my thyroid dose is bad or too low when my face gets really dry, my eyebrows start to noticeably & quickly thin/look patchy, my hair gets more straw like & falls out more, my neck becomes really really itchy, and I want to nap & fall asleep heavily & early.

    Generic birth control has worse & more side effects in my experience than brand name (2 babies later and those tubes are tied so not taking that ever again). But Brand name low dose Alesse seemed to work fine back in the day.

    I have found surprisingly that certain Generic brands of Imodium, Loperamide (A-D tablet version), work just as well or even BETTER than brand name Imodium A-D. And are soooo much cheaper, (and easier to open even haha) which is great news when you have IBS-D!!

    Tried Venlafaxine/Effexor for only 4 or 5 months but can’t remember if it was brand or generic. It may have been brand or an “authorized generic” though because I remember it being a bit expensive. Think I experienced a bout or two of acute pancreatitis on this too- when drinking (too much?) alcohol while on it (after a reunion party & a night on our honeymoon). I was diagnosed as “unknown” “maybe viral” at the hospitals- but when you’re young and/or physically “fit” or ” attractive”, Doctors tend to be more dismissive/nonchalant with you & rarely test for anything serious. Effexor also increased my anxiety & agitation so it was not the right fit for me anyways. And did nothing for my IBS-D. Withdrawal made me feel like I was super high (too high) & totally out of it & twitchy for about two weeks. Luckily I had work vacation time to use.

    Took generic Celexa (Citalopram) which made me feel angry & tired with heart palpitations. Switched to newer (at the time) brand name Lexapro (no generic out yet at that time) which I liked ok- pretty low in side effects but caused daytime fatigue & also didn’t notice a huge difference in how I felt. Went to a higher dosage- started feeling very dull & apathetic and they started dolling out the cheaper brand generic Escitalopram which gave me heavy drenching night sweats & rapid heartbeat so I quit that. But the bright side, had short lived barely noticeable withdrawal symptoms when stopping.

    Tried Fluoxetine (generic Prozac)- first week or two made me feel noticeably “happier”… but did NOT last. Ended us as a horrible experience- caused intolerable car sickness (only relieved by a Benadryl- which is basically Fluoxetine’s parent drug oddly enough) and dizziness, blurred/distorted vision (inability to read or drive at night), and eventually splitting headaches and left-arm numbness/chest pain- heart attack symptoms. So I stopped immediately and then experienced withdrawal symptoms with fever & super high anxiety that even hurt my upper spine/back/neck, insomnia, and rapid beat. And I was only on it for 4 or 5 months too.

    And never take generic benzodiazepines- they seem to trigger dependence automatically- much faster & harder than brand names. You feel immediate harsh withdrawal symptoms if you don’t take it. You also build up a tolerance to your dose very quickly with the generics. Like Clonazepam for instance. Did my research awhile back about 6 years ago and decided to take BRAND name Klonopin for a short period of time then for about two months. Did not think about tapering off of it so I ran out and therefore stopped cold turkey. Maybe noticed weird feelings for about a week or so but nothing to make me even think I was experiencing a “drug withdrawal”. Fast forward to a year ago- experiencing extreme stress, family loss and postpartum depression- and forgot about my above stated research, asked for Klonopin, and was given generic Clonazepam to help cope with my extremely stressful, fragile anxiety state and lessen the residual withdrawal effects from that scary Fluoxetine (generic Prozac). (And also started brand Zoloft at about the same time.)

    Well my first generic brand Clonazepam pill was orange (like the brand name Klonopin) and seemed to work fine, but I’d feel severe withdrawal symptoms if going 2 days without a .5mg tablet. And then they switched the generic brand to Teva’s hard yellow Clonazepam tablets. I Noticed a change within a day of taking it. Didn’t work- so ended up taking more of it, but it just caused irritability & agitation & depression. Stuck it out for a month or two before I decided to taper off of it. So I tried stopping it (the Teva generic version) this past August and was at about one week (and actually feeling pretty decent) after fully tapering off, when I suddenly came down with full blown panic attack crazy withdrawal symptoms- Not exaggerating: Muscle spasms & painful cramping, hand tremors & twitches. Upper back & spine pain, general weakness/heaviness when lifting limbs. Fatigue. Extreme agitation/irritability. And the worse of it- total insomnia up all night with an unbearable racing pounding heart rate/beat for 3 nights straight. So I had to go to the ER and was put back on it immediately.

    And then I remembered my research on the importance of brand name Klonopin when I went back to my Dr and I asked to switch to brand name Klonopin. Which I am currently still taking daily today (so that’s going on almost two years now). Brand name withdrawal symptoms aren’t as severe as generic, but as of today, since I seemed to have built up a tolerance to the .5mg, I notice some slight withdrawal symptoms even if I have to go without one for just a day. But like I said- nothing like the generic withdrawal!!

    To wrap it up, after trying & failing many different generics, today I take brand Synthroid and I take brand name Klonopin & brand name Zoloft together (but I need higher doses of both now). They work well together for me. For anxiety, depression, PMS, and for my IBS-D. And I take them Along with my only prescribed generic that I’ll take, Dextroamphetamine (for my ADD) (which I’ve never had problems with).

  5. jayne
    new york
    Reply

    I’ve been on Zoloft for 20 years until I was switched to generic by greenstone. I had no problems w this…then a year or so ago I was switched to lupin sertraline..I developed ringing in my ears and felt “off” but eventually dealt with it…NOW the pharmacy has switched to Aurobindo brand sertraline…I didn’t even think about the change til I started feeling lousy…depressed (I take the drug for anxiety NOT depression) anxious…generally not well…I get a 90 day supply and I’m halfway hey…I’m going back to Zoloft as soon as my doc changes my script…now I’m worried the switch BACK will be a problem since it feels like I’m taking nothing right now. Has anyone gone back to zoloft and not had adverse reaction?

  6. Tom
    Harrisville, MI
    Reply

    I’ve taken sertraline for nearly 12 years with no problem until last year when I was given some by lupin not greenstone. Noting the big change made me realize the brand name was important. Now about 3 months ago we found out Pfizer isnt making the greenstone brand any more. Here I am super depressed, on the edge of blowing up, headaches . The dr keeps trying different products and Nothing is helping.

  7. Alice
    Mandeville, LA
    Reply

    I called Pfizer to see if I could get an answer as to why the Greenstone brand is no longer available. I am experiencing symptoms again since changing generic brands. Interesting enough, they questioned me in detail about the difference I was feeling. They wanted to know specific name brands of the generics I was switched to. Just a few days ago I received a follow up questionaire requesting more information about my current situation with regards to not taking the Greenstone brand. It makes me wonder if there was a reason we are not being told for the discontinuation of this prescribed drug.

  8. Karen
    Tyler, Texas
    Reply

    I have been reading through these comments because I have been switched to another generic for Zoloft and within three days have started feeling that I have no coping skills, am having nightmares, and feel SO upset. I have taken Zoloft or the Greenstone brand of it since 1994 with excellent results.

    Over the last year, I have been having difficulty ordering the Greenstone brand and was switched to another manufacturer’s (Aurobindo) generic briefly last year. Within two days, I felt as if I was not taking anything. Walgreen’s was able to order the Greenstone which I used for several months, and then they could no longer obtain it. By that time, my Humana insurance switched to another prescription provider.

    In January, I had to switch pharmacies. I had just refilled the medication that works for me for 90 days. I just took the last one last week and had to go to the new generic Sertraline manufactured by Aurobindo. In one day, it was not working. I went to CVS which takes my insurance, and they transferred my prescription and issued a 90-day supply to me. The manufacturer of this generic is Lupin. In three days, the symptoms I described above have started.

    It is such a travesty that the pharmacies are filling scripts with the lowest bid generics, leaving us in a terrible bind. These generics are apparently not chemically like Zoloft or the Greenstone Sertraline.

    I am 70 years old and do not have the energy to keep searching for medications that will continue to help me lead a life in which I feel normal. In years past, I never had to be concerned if the medication I was taking would work consistently.

    What can be done to correct this major issue related to generics NOT doing what they are supposed to do?

    • Patti
      Plano, TX
      Reply

      Hi,
      I am in the same boat as you. Since Greenstone stopped making the generic, I am in constant search for a generic solution. Did you have any good results with another generic? I would be grateful for any news you can share.

      Thank,
      Patti – Plano, TX

  9. Frieda B
    Seattle
    Reply

    Like the other commenters, I’ve had excellent results with Zoloft and hell with generics. Now that I am on a limited income, I’m not sure how I’m going to keep paying for Zoloft. I’ll definitely check for the Zoloft discount card from Pfizer.

    In order to get the insurance to pay for Zoloft, I have to take generics and go back through hell and then maybe they’ll consider paying for Zoloft.

  10. Jen
    Colorado
    Reply

    I used to be a staunch believer in generics, but that was before I had to take so many medications. I have rheumatoid arthritis and Addison’s disease, and I could open my own pharmacy. I too, have experienced severe problems and side effects with generic antidepressants, including lack of efficacy. I have actually gone without an antidepressant for years because my insurance does not want to cover brand name drugs in this class without an act of God. I have also run into problems switching between generic manufacturers of prednisone and hypertension medications. When will the FDA force generic manufactures to engage in some sort of trial or research that demonstrates how these drugs compare both to the original, as well as to each other?

  11. Rebecca
    Bladenboro, NC
    Reply

    As the owner of a small independent pharmacy, I help my patients find a cost-effective version of their medicine that works. There are often many different generic manufacturers of each medication and unlike the big box stores, your local independently-owned pharmacy is not bound to one manufacturer through contracts. We buy top-rated generics, but some people have different reactions to the excipients or different absorption rates based on the formulation. We try different manufacturers until a patient is satisfied. We have a whole shelf dedicated to “patient-specific medications.” We have only had togo back to the brand medications maybe four times in the 9 years we have owned the store. Try your local independent and let them work with you to get the best formulation for you.

    • Joe Graedon
      Reply

      Rebecca,

      Thank you for commenting and for the service you provide your patients. How do you find “top-rated generics”? How do you find a complete list of authorized generics and their specific manufacturers? What is your assessment of APIs made in China?

    • John
      Cranston, RI
      Reply

      Rebecca,

      Where can I find authorized generics? I’d like to find a retailer that can sell Lexapro- I may switch to Zoloft.

      Thank you!
      John

  12. Tim
    Arizona
    Reply

    I was prescribed Sertraline several years ago for anxiety. However, it caused me to thrash about while I slept and never fully took care of the anxiety issue. So I decided to stop taking the drug under the guidance of my doctor. The anxiety issues continued and after a couple of years of dealing with them, I decided I needed to find a way to deal with them that did not require the use of a prescription drug.

    After researching different herbal/naturopathic remedies, I decided to try SAMe. It was like a miracle. I started feeling better within a few days. I don’t have anxiety attacks anymore and I feel mentally good most of the time. I can’t say this would work for everyone but it definitely works for me. I have never had any side effects from using SAMe. It is readily available without a prescription. I buy it at Costco and they frequently sell it at a discounted price. God bless!

  13. Liz
    Texas
    Reply

    I don’t know if the manufacturer of my sertraline has changed but I have gotten it at Wal Mart for a number of years. About a month ago I started a downward cycle and I’m still there. It could be the weather, it could be I have had allergies, or it could be the meds are not effective any more. I only take .25 a day.

  14. Karen
    North Carolina
    Reply

    My husband is facing the same issue with generic sertraline. When we changed pharmacies a few years ago, the generic they used (Lupin) did not work well for him. Not only did his depression and anxiety return, he developed ringing in his ears. His doctor dismissed the idea that sertraline was the cause even though this is listed as a side effect. I returned to our pharmacy and requested that they order Greenstone for us, and he returned to normal. Fast forward to today, and Greenstone is no longer being made. Our pharmacist ordered all she could find and has stockpiled it for us. We’re going to work with our pharmacist to find a suitable alternative when our supply runs out.

    I wish someone could address why Greenstone is no longer making the generic. Could it be to increase demand for the brand Zoloft? It makes sense since Pfizer makes both! It’s difficult to prove that these drug companies are playing games with supply.

    Pfizer offers a discount card on their website that allows you to purchase Zoloft at a discounted rate for a specific period of time. Just search Zoloft Discount Card, and you’ll find it. Another alternative to Canadian pharmacies.

    It’s important to remember that generics that work for some may not work for all. Unfortunately it’s trial and error for each patient. Greenstone was a special case since it was an authorized generic.

  15. Carrie
    Reply

    I have used the Pfizer discount card for brand name Zoloft for a year. I only pay $30 a month. It has been a lifesaver. Getting a card is very simple and almost all pharmacies accept it.

    • Debbie
      Maryland
      Reply

      I’m in the same situation as your husband. The only generic sertraline that works for me is Greenstone. How can they just stop making a medication that we’ve successfully taken for so many years? I can relate to his frustration!

      Thankfully, Pfizer does have the discount card, so I’ve been paying $45 per month for brand name Zoloft since Greenstone became unavailable.

      My pharmacist suggested that while I have access to discounted Zoloft, I should try a generic sertraline to see how it works. That way I’ll have an effective generic to fall back on if the Pfizer discount is no longer available. I may do that, but her idea doesn’t sound like much fun to me! 😳

  16. Lisa
    Reply

    I am able to get brand name Zoloft from a discount card from Pfizer. I pay $45 monthly for a 30 day supply. Google Zoloft discount card. I take 1.5 pills which is why it is $45. 30 day supply of one pill a day is usually $30. I had very little success with generic.

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