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Analysis Raises Generic Drug Question

For decades the FDA has been telling everyone—physicians, pharmacists and patients—that generic drugs are just as good as their brand name counterparts. According to the feds there’s no need to worry about quality control just because a generic medicine costs 50 percent less than the original. As for the $4 generics at big-box discount chains, celebrate, don’t hesitate!

Everyone loves a bargain—consumers, hospitals and especially insurance companies that have to pay big bills for brand name drugs. That is why generic medications are starting to dominate drugstore sales.

But are generics as good as the FDA claims? Over the last few years we have been hearing from more and more consumers that they are sometimes disappointed with the effects of certain generic drugs.
M.C. wrote to tell us: “My doctor prescribed Toprol-XL several years ago to control hypertension. All went well. Last week my pharmacist refilled my prescription with generic metoprolol succinate. Within two days my blood pressure was sky high–190/100. This has never happened before, so there may be a problem with this generic for Toprol-XL.”

This report is worrisome, especially since we have heard from other patients who experienced heart rhythm abnormalities when switched to the generic form of Toprol-XL. We have also heard from hundreds of people who have been distressed when switched from the brand name antidepressant Wellbutrin XL 300 to a generic.

One person recounted his experience: "Several months ago I switched over to generic Wellbutrin. Within two weeks I experienced the worst case of depression that I can remember. I had the most severe suicidal thoughts ever.

“I had experienced suicidal thoughts before but this time I actually wrote a letter to my therapist and sent it to an email account that would not be found until after the fact. Fortunately, I called him about 30 minutes later and he reminded me of a story   we had talked about in the paper a few weeks earlier about another person who had gotten extremely depressed after switching to the generic.

"I immediately called my pharmacist and got a refill of the regular Wellbutrin. Within a few days I was fine. This ordeal was incredibly frightening.”

Other readers have reported side effects with the generic bupropion (Budeprion XL 300) that they did not experience while taking Wellbutrin XL 300. Some complained of headaches and nausea while others noted anxiety and insomnia.

These are side effects that might be expected if a person got a high dose of bupropion. We asked ConsumerLab.com, an independent testing organization, to analyze the pills. Laboratory tests revealed that “the generic product released drug at a very different rate than the original Wellbutrin XL.”

The news release is available online at www.peoplespharmacy.com. People can post generic drug experiences there and read other people’s stories. The full report is available at www.ConsumerLab.com.

The manufacturer of generic Budeprion XL 300 has responded that its product meets FDA standards. That may be true, but many consumers have noted a difference in the clinical effect. Although the FDA assures us that its approval process for generic drugs is rigorous, we are beginning to wonder whether it is good enough.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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