“Using Generic Drugs Wisely,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 61
With so many products on today’s market, it makes sense to shop wisely. However, wise shopping is often equated with buying the least expensive product. And while price should be a factor in deciding which product to buy, it shouldn’t be the only one.
This is especially true when it comes to generic products—including generic drugs. Although most generic drugs are as good as their brand-name counterparts, some are inferior. It pays, then, to do your homework before you buy.
Some generic drugs can cause adverse side effects. While serving on the Drug Specifications Committee for Los Angeles County, I found that one generic brand of diphen-hydramine, an antihistamine used for allergies and nausea, actually caused nausea and vomiting in many patients. An investigation showed that one of the ingredients used in the manufacturing process of this particular generic drug caused the nausea.
Other generic drugs have a low bioavailability measure. In other words, they do not reach the bloodstream as quickly or in as high a concentration as the brand names. In fact, some never reach an effective concentration. So, even though a patient might appear to save money on a generic prescription, he may have to make additional visits to the doctor and buy refills in order to get the desired effect. This may actually increase the total cost to the patient.
The following guidelines can help you avoid some of these problems. They can help you make sure that the drugs you buy—whether brand name or generic—are safe and effective.
1. Ask your physician if there is an acceptable generic drug available and, if so, to indicate this on the prescription.
2. Be sure you understand the physician’s and pharmacist’s instructions on how to take the drug and what to expect from it.
3. If a pharmacist recommends a generic product, ask if the bioavailability data shows that the drug meets all the specifications of the brandname product.
4. If you decide to use a generic drug, make sure that you receive the same brand of generic on each refill. Do not change brands once you have begun to take a medication.
5. Most of the better brands of generics have an identification mark on the tablet or capsule called an “identi-code.” Usually it is a combination of numbers and letters. Don’t accept any drug that does not have such a marking.
6. Ask the pharmacist to put an expiration date on each label.
7. Report to your physician and pharmacist immediately if you experience any unusual or adverse effects after taking the drug.
8. Don’t allow anyone but the person named to take the drugs.
9. Be cautious of the person who wants to discuss only price. Bruce H. Woolley, professor of applied pharmacology and therapeutics, Brigham Young University