The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Overcome Trouble with Generic Antidepressants?

When patients have trouble with generic antidepressants, their doctor and pharmacist should act as allies to help them get the medication they need.

Have you ever had trouble with generic antidepressants? We have heard from many readers who report difficulties in switching from brand-name to generic or between different generic medications. If an antidepressant does not work, the consequences can be dire.

Reader Has Trouble with Generic Antidepressants:

Q. A number of years ago my prescription for Zoloft was changed to generic sertraline. It simultaneously became ineffective.

As a result, my PCP began adding other drugs to the generic sertraline to try to achieve a response against depression. After several attempts at different add-ons, I was prescribed generic Budeprion XL 300. Three days later I suffered a grand mal seizure.

I quit all depression medications then and have suffered through major depression since that time. That seems marginally better than dealing with the potentially life-threatening side effects of these generic drugs. I’m not willing to be a guinea pig!

A. The FDA insists that any generic drug it approves is just as good as its brand-name counterpart. However, we document generic drug failures in general and the Budeprion XL 300 debacle in particular in our book, Top Screwups.

Take Generic Drugs Wisely:

Because there are flaws in the FDA’s system of approving and monitoring generic medications, you may want to read our top 10 tips for taking generic drugs wisely. 

  1. Make no assumptions. Your generic drug may be just fine, as many are. Or it might have been made by a firm with a dubious track record.
  2. Keep track of the manufacturer. If the drug works well, you can ask for it on renewal
  3. Record your results. If it is blood pressure medicine, measure it and write it down. You might have more difficulty measuring the impact of an antidepressant. Ask your doctor or psychologist for the best way to do this.
  4. Keep tabs of lab results, if there are any.
  5. Monitor your own symptoms. A grand mal seizure is a dramatic indicator that something is very wrong. But you should pay attention to more subtle problems as well.
  6. Pay attention to your body. How you feel matters.
  7. If you have trouble with generic antidepressants, your doctor might want you to try a re-challenge. So long as the original problem was not life-threatening, you could try that to see if the generic drug really does pose a problem.
  8. Stand up for yourself. Hundreds of people noticed a problem with Budeprion XL 300. They complained to their doctors and reported side effects to the FDA. Eventually, this made a difference and the agency pulled the drug off the market.
  9. Recruit your pharmacist and physician as allies. You will need some in this situation.
  10. Report any problems to FDA MedWatch. The FDA uses this information to determine if a specific medication, whether generic or brand-name, needs more scrutiny.

You will find far more details on these tactics in Top Screwups. 

You may also be interested in the information we offer in our eGuide to Dealing with Depression.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I strongly support your second point in regard to taking generic drugs wisely. I actually keep a list with the four prescription medications that I take. I note which brands and/or generics of each medication I have taken and what the results were. For one of the medications in particular, a specific generic brand is the clear preference. I spoke with the pharmacist at my local pharmacy, and she has been able to order this generic for me. So, yes, one should not hesitate to request a specific manufacturer when requesting medication refills.

In my experience, this applies to any generic drug. PERIOD. My Father was put on a generic heart med years ago. For three months we watched his health change. Finally convinced his physician to return him to the brand name drug. He never rebounded back to his better health after that. Disgusting Western medical practices.

A couple of years ago I was given an antibiotic that I previously had no problems using. A generic version from a different manufacturer meant I developed a rash and other side affects. And the med did not clear up the condition.

Remember, do the due diligence for any prescription you receive as described in this segment.

Thanks for this one. I’m not interested in taking any antidepressants, but I did for awhile years ago, and initially they were helpful. But I was taking a name brand. As soon as my insurance company forced me to go with generic, everything changed. I’ve tried several different antidepressants over the years, and they were always generic, and they always made me feel worse.

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