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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Generic Medication Safety

Having a chronic condition, like fibromyalgia, is often a costly affair. To help ease those costs, many of us consider using generic forms of our medications, when possible. I recent Dr. Oz show discussed some of the concerns when getting and using generic medications and I want to share what I learned.

There are regulations that require testing that the amount of the generic drug that enters the body is approximately the same as the name brand, but not ones that test if the effect on the body is the same. Also, sometimes companies can get exceptions so they don’t have to do the required testing. Consumer Labs tested many different generic medications and found that there was often a variance of 20-25% from the name brand medication. The FDA said, “In a large FDA study that looked at more than 2,000 tests of generic drugs, the average difference in absorption into the body between the generic and the brand name was 3.5%.” this is somewhat misleading though because this is the average, so many medications are outside of that range.

There are also many different manufacturers of generic medications and each time you get a refill you may be getting one from a different source. So, according to the Consumer Labs study you could be getting anywhere from 80-125% of the intended effect each refill. This variance raises concerns if you’re on a medicine that minor dosage changes have a big impact on efficacy. Some types of medications where that is the case are ones for the thyroid, blood pressure, anti-seziure, asthma, blood thinners, immunosuppressants and antidepressans. For those types of medicines it may be safer to stay on the name brand.

If you still want to try the generic versions of those types, work with your doctor to have testing to make sure the medicines are having the desired effect. Once you know a specific manufacture’s generic medicine works for you, request that your pharmacy refill your prescriptions with the generic from that same manufacture each time. That way you won’t be susceptible to the variations other generics may have. Another option is to look for the authorized generic, which is the generic medication that is actually made by the same manufacture that makes the name brand version. In that case you’re virtually getting the same medication for cheaper.

Another type of generic medication that is concerning is extended release ones – like the ones ending in xl, er or sr. The pills are different in technology and may release at different rates, changing their effect.

Do you use generic medications?

pill box

Be proactive about your generic medication use*

*Image Credit: from by Sarah Korf


Comment from Maija Haavisto
Time April 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Many of my medications (five?) are compounded. Most of the rest are generics. E.g. in Finland you’re automatically started on a generic in most cases, as this saves the government hundreds of millions a year. Starting on a generic is no problem, of course, if you keep taking the same one.

A bigger problem for me has been that some generics are in impractical forms. Like my desmopressin, which I have to cut in half – some of the pills are so tiny they’re difficult to halve despite having a line, some are bigger but extremely crumbly.

I’m more worried about my compounded meds. If my hydrocortisone capsules are filled incorrectly (I take two different kinds, 7 mg once a day and 2 mg 3x a day) it could kill me.


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Are compounding pharmacies popular there? I’ve only gotten one prescription from one before and they aren’t nearly as easy to come by here.


Maija Haavisto Reply:

I don’t know if they’re more popular. I just happen to need meds that are only made by compounding (DHEA and melatonin need to be compounded here, LDN obviously, and the doses of hydrocortisone I use). It seems like it’s more common for pharmacies to compound than in Finland. In Finland it’s mostly (but not exclusively) university pharmacies.


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