Generic Vs. Prescription Drugs

Can a generic drug kill you? Can it make you sicker or let an illness silently grow worse? For most of us the answer is easy. A generic can be -- and usually is -- just as good as the name brand drug. But in a special fact finders investigation, Serese Cole reports -- the difference between the two can be more critical depending on the illness being treated.

Lynn Sinnette has a thyroid condition and painful heartburn.

"It burns. It hurts your chest. It hurts your throat. It feels like there's a rock in the back of your throat," described Sinnette.

When she was switched to the generic version of her heartburn medication - within two weeks...

"My heartburn came back," said Sinnette.

Lynn says her generic thyroid drug also leaves her tired - and the brand name didn't.

"We know that there can be some cases where people don't respond the same as they do to the name brand drug even though the dosing is exactly the same, " said Dr. Dr. Lynn Mack an Endocrinologist at UNMC.

Serese Cole, "Thyroid medications are just one of several drugs that have what the FDA calls a Narrow Therapeutic Window. That means a very small change in the dose, could have a severe impact on the person taking the drug.

In addition to thyroid medications, the list includes: some blood thinners, heart medications, psychiatric drugs and anti-seizure medications.

Randy Moore, "So we do have patients that we have to monitor closely when switching from one product to another."

But if you're taking one of these medications - what does close monitoring mean if you switch from brand name to generic?

For thyroid and blood thinner patients: Its routine lab tests to make sure the drugs are working. For heart patients - doctors watch for any signs of palpitations or dizziness
Most importantly, you need to pay attention. Keep track of how you're feeling and watch for any changes in your body

While the track record for generics is excellent...

"They've had to undergo a pretty good extensive process for them to become therapeutically equivalent," explained Moore.

There is a possibility some people can be allergic to the filler or inactive ingredients - or they're just unable to tolerate the change - like Lynn.

"I've got to have it or my life is miserable,' said Stinnette.

Who's still hoping to get her brand name drugs - back.

If a generic medication does not agree with you, you should talk to your doctor immediately. A doctor can recommend you stay on the brand name drug. The insurance company may or may not cover it.


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