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Can You Trust Generic Drug Quality?

Most health professionals trust generic drug quality. That's because the FDA says it does a great job. But readers are fed up with contamination problems!
Can You Trust Generic Drug Quality?
FDA Approved words on an orange pill or medicine bottle with long shadow

Have you lost count of medication recalls? It would not surprise us if you have become accustomed to FDA announcements about problems with generic drug quality.

First it was blood pressure pills like irbesartan, losartan and valsartan because of carcinogen contamination. Then the heartburn medicine ranitidine (Zantac) got nailed. More recently, several companies that make the diabetes drug metformin had to recall products contaminated with the probable carcinogen NDMA.

This doesn’t even take into account all the generic drugs that have gotten into trouble because the companies failed FDA inspections. It’s hardly any wonder that millions of American no longer trust generic drug quality. This reader has a tale of woe and intrigue.

His Metformin Failed Generic Drug Quality Test:

Q. My knowledge of the current safety of prescription medication in the United States started when I read the book Bottle of Lies. After reading it, I sent two of my metformin tablets to be analyzed. The analysis revealed that my daily metformin medication provided over 30 times the maximum safe level of the carcinogen NDMA.

I wrote to the president of my mail order pharmacy and received a reply that they only provide medications approved by the FDA.

This past week the medication provider (located in India) “voluntarily” recalled my specific metformin “out of an abundance of caution.” That was after the FDA finally issued a recall of many lots of metformin from several manufacturers. How can I have any confidence in the medicine I take?

A. Until recently, pharmacies did not have to worry about drug quality. As long as the FDA approved a generic drug, pharmacy buyers assumed that they could purchase the lowest cost medicines. They could always fall back on the excuse that they only sell FDA-approved medications.

In Bottle of Lies, Katherine Eban investigated generic drug manufacturing overseas and uncovered a number of serious problems. You can listen to our free interview with Ms. Eban on this podcast

More recently, research revealed that a number of common prescription drugs contained probable carcinogens such as NDMA. Quality control, storage and shipping conditions have contributed to these impurities. Even when storage and shipping are well controlled there can be problems.

How Can You Trust Generic Drug Quality?

Have you ever had problems with generic drug substitutes? If so, have you ever asked for authorized generic drugs? These are made to the same specifications as the brand name products. Sometimes they are even made on the same manufacturing line. We have a list of authorized generic drugs and who makes them at this link

Brand Name Drugs From Canada:

Many readers no longer trust generic drug quality even if the FDA states that all generic drugs are fine and dandy. They have gone back to brand name products purchased from online Canadian pharmacies. Although such products are often much cheaper than the identical brands in the U.S., they can still be pricey.

For example, a month’s worth of the arthritis drug Celebrex could cost between $400 and $500 in a U.S. pharmacy. The same brand name Celebrex in Canada could cost $60 to $70.

You will likely have to pay out of pocket for brands purchased from a Canadian pharmacy. And not all Canadian pharmacies that advertise online are actually in Canada. You can learn more about the challenges posed by shopping online at this link

What About Tested Generic Drugs in the US?

The FDA does very little testing of generic drugs. The agency mostly relies upon the manufacturer to arrange for most of the testing. Such an “honor system” seems short sighted to us.

As far as we know, the only pharmacy in the country that tests every lot it sells is Valisure. This company discovered the ranitidine contamination. It also revealed more metformin problems than the FDA announced. Full disclosure: Valisure has underwritten our radio podcast and advertises in our daily newsletter.

We think that testing each lot of medicine by an independent laboratory, such as Valisure, makes tremendous sense. Should you wish to learn more, here is a link

Share Your Experience:

Do you trust generic drug quality? If not, why not? Share your story in the comment section below.

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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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