Are Generic Drugs Effective?

February 25, 2009

Although generics decrease the cost of drug treatments, they may not always produce the same clinical effects as their brand-name counterparts.

Generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs; this is common knowledge. These drugs can cost up to 70 percent less than the originals, which sometimes lead states, insurers, and employers to “insist that pharmacists fill patients’ prescriptions with a generic to save money.”

Although generics decrease the cost of drug treatments, they may not always produce the same clinical effects as their brand-name counterparts. There have been some reports of patients, including those with epilepsy, depression, heart disease, and organ transplants, who experienced side effects related to their generic medications. Although generics are required by law to have the same quality, strength, purity, and stability as brand-name drugs, Eric Hargis, president of the Epilepsy Foundation of America, said that his organization has “received more than 1,000 reports from people whose seizures worsened or who had side effects after their pharmacy switched between different generic copies of the same medicine.”

To address this problem, many healthcare organizations “are pressing lawmakers in at least 33 states to stop pharmacies from substituting generic drugs” without alerting patients and physicians of the change. According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association http://www.gphaonline.org, Tennessee, Utah, North Carolina, and Hawaii have “passed measures that stop pharmacies from automatically switching customers on prescription medicines to generics,” requiring pharmacists to obtain consent from patients and/or doctors.

Generic vs. brand name AEDs

One study, “Impact of Generic Substitution of Antiepileptic Drugs on Medical Resource Utilization in the United States,” evaluated “the impact of switching from branded to generic for five widely-used AEDs in the US on the associated medical resource utilization in patients diagnosed with epilepsy.” The researchers found that compared to brand-name AED use, generics led to “significantly higher inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy utilization.”

The National Institutes of Health will be conducting a study “to determine whether blood-level variations between drugs are tied to an increase in seizures.” Those involved expect the initial results to be made public within the next year.

Related Articles:

  • No Generic Substitution of AEDs without Physician and Patient Consent
  • Switching from Brand-name to Generic Epilepsy Drug May Prompt Seizure
  • Generic Substitution: Why the Controversy?