We all agree that generic medicines are cheaper than those still patented. For instance, the generic for Lipitor is now available. Your insurance company is a lot happier. And you may be, too!
So, instead of Lipitor, what does it say on the container you take home? It says Atorvastatin.
Aceon (a blood pressure drug) is also now made as a generic. This one is named Perindopril Erbumine. Fancy, huh? Imagine if you ended up in a hospital and a nurse asking what drugs you take – and you try to remember that generic name!
Of course, Lipitor and Aceon were simply trade names. But they were a lot easier to say and to remember than the real chemical names.
Here’s a hint that may help you. When you get the generic back home, just write the original trade name on the container.
You might be wondering if the generic pill is exactly the same as the original. The answer is “sometimes.” The FDA keeps an electronic orange book (actually a database) of approved drugs, and their evaluation of therapeutic equivalence. You can search the proprietary name, say Lipitor. You are taken to a page that gives you the name of the active ingredient (Atorvastatin Calcium).
Look at the column labeled “TE code.” (This stands for Therapeutic Equivalence code.) You can see that for the Lipitor generic the TE code is “AB.” If you look at the description page for the TE code, and scroll down quite a bit, you can see that the “A” codes are for “Drug products that are considered to be therapeutically equivalent to other pharmaceutically equivalent products.” An “AB” code is for products meeting necessary bioequivalence requirements. So in this case the generic is perfectly OK.
What could be different about a generic? Generics are allowed to have different inactive (or padding) ingredients than the brand-name medicine. This might include fillers, dyes, or other ingredients that may cause problems for you if you have allergies or sensitivities. So it is necessary to pay attention to generics.
Hint: ask the pharmacist to find out the inactive ingredients in case they are different than found in the original brand drug. (I’ve done this.)
Now that we’ve settled the chemistry of the generics, how about the shape and color? Well, unfortunately they are not necessarily the same as the original. Also, sometimes one drug can have more than one generic maker, so the drugs may not look alike. This means that you might have doubts about a medication the pharmacist just gave you. It may not look right. Maybe he or she gave you the wrong thing? What do you do?
HINT: Take the container right back to the pharmacist and have them check it out!!! (I had to do this once. It was fine – but I had to make sure.)
So generics are good for price. But make sure that they are good for your body!