Call For Stories: Generics vs. Prescription Drugs

Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 08:38 AM

from  erix! on flickr

from erix! on flickr

The Brian Lehrer Show needs your stories!

Next month, we'll be doing a program on generic drugs, and we want your input. Most generic drugs seem to work just like their name brand counterparts, but with a few medications, there have been stories of the generics not working as well. So we're collecting your anecdotes:

If you are a doctor or a pharmacist who has ever had an experience where a generic and name brand drug seemed to work differently, post your story in the comments section below. You can post anonymously if you'd like, but we'd prefer that you leave a working email address.

We're especially interested in hearing from physicians on this, if you have ever had an experience where a generic and name brand drug seemed to work differently for one of your patients.

Please note that we won't make your comments public - this is simply to collect stories that will inform our coverage next month.

-Brian Lehrer Show-


More in:

Comments [12]


the scrapbook tells about prescription of drugs.

Apr. 05 2009 11:49 PM

Suggest you contact Bill Haddad --

Father of Generics, Mid,er,Wife of Peace Corps, John DeLorean's #2, Pulitzer Prize winner I think, and as far as I know very much professionally (and personally) alive in suburban NYC:
recent bio

Mar. 24 2009 04:06 PM
Tom S

Dear Mr Lehrer:
I managed many clinical trials at two medical schools, but I am not a physician or pharmacist. Nevertheless, I witnessed a variety of outcomes--both desired and undesired--for brand-name medications, which were eventually approved. When you consider the fact that brand name drugs are NOT efficacious for a certain proportion of patients, or that they result in a variety of adverse events (side effects), how could a physician in clinical practice know if a generic resulted in the undesired effect?

Outcomes in the clinical practice setting are much more subject to physician/patient bias and would seem to fall under "anecdotal evidence." (Normal physicians and pharmacists don't define their patients and their symptoms with such rigorous standards.) Therefore, a much larger population of patients--statistically sized to properly estimate the number of patients originally studied in clinical trials of the brand name drug--might have to receive the generic drug for differences in outcomes to be properly compared, both for efficacy and adverse events. With your very presumption, one could surmise that slight differences in generic drugs could produce more desirable outcomes!

I hope you will be able to confirm my suspicions with research scientists (MDs and PhDs) or biostatisticians. Keep in mind, that vilifying generics--to maintain patents and profits--is one of the standard operating procedures of pharmaceutical companies and their public relations agencies and lobbyists.

Note: Please do not disclose my identity or former employer; this multi-billion-dollar industry is unforgiving (and somewhat indifferent to the 70+ million uninsured or underinsured Americans who can't afford many prohibitively costly brand-name drugs).


Tom S.
Former Clinical Trial Manager
Protocol Office, Comprehensive Cancer Center
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University

Mar. 24 2009 01:12 PM
Jane Bedell, MD

I know you are looking for the opposite, but in my experience there is no real difference between generic and brand name medications. However, in my experience as a clinician I would occasionally work with a patient who was convinced of the difference. I believe this is another form of the "placebo effect" which has been studied and proven to have real effects from a medical point of view. So, this issue is: how do I, as the doctor, deal with the patients attachment to the brand name medication...? difficult situation and dealt with my me on a case by case basis.
I hope you are researching this, especially the role that pharmaceutical companies have in convincing doctors to prescribe brand name drugs -- look into the issues with "synthroid" especially. If my memory serves me the New England Journal of Medicine did a big piece on this some years back and it was quite shocking how the pharmaceutical company spread false information. Looking forward to the segment....

Mar. 23 2009 10:36 PM
joanne devine

I am a nurse working on an acute admission psychitric unit. I know certain generic meds have a lesser potency than brand name. Haldol, ativan and Thorazine come to mind. They are oldies but goodies when needed STAT.

Mar. 23 2009 05:29 PM
Timothy Nguyen, PharmD, CCP, FASCP

I am a practicing pharmacist and educator for over ten years. Brand and generic medications are therepeutic equilvalent as approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Switching brand or generic may trigger mental awareness but other than that all approved drugs are efficacious. The latest data demonstrated that a common heart medication (e.g. digoxin) is equally efficacious in either forms, brand or generic (JAMA 2009).

Mar. 20 2009 03:15 PM
Susan Cheney

I'm not a medical professional; I'm a cancer patient who has used oxycontin for pain control. Oxycontin is now, apparently, a generic drug. For the last two months, my pharmacy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH has told me that they are unable to obtain this drug in the lower-dose tablets that I use, and I have had to accept a similar morphine-based drug, which seems to be associated with more side effects and a greater tendency to cause dependency. My oncologist tells me that there have been "shortages" of oxycontin for the past several months, with the cause unclear--possibly issues of "too low profit margin to manufacture" ??? Seems very odd-can you find anything out about this? Are there other drugs that become scarce once they are no longer making huge profits for the pharmaceutical companies? It seems as though they are manipulating the market.

Mar. 19 2009 10:17 PM
ADHD Strategies Companies Expand Gluten-Free Offer

[...] WNYC - The Scrapbook ? Call For Stories: Generics vs. Prescription … By Jody Avirgan When I was 40, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and prescribed Ritalin. At some point during the first year of taking this medication, I found the new bottle wasn?t helping. I took a look at it?something I didn?t … The Scrapbook - [...]

Mar. 19 2009 09:57 PM
Ruben Safir


I'm a Pharmacist of 20 years and rarely is ever are there substantial differences betwen brand US FDA approved drugs and Branded drugs. I don't understand why this is being discussed like this. The efforts of the major drug companies to keep generics off the market and to push their prices up is what needs investigating. Plavix should have been generic years ago and other generic products are being manipulated in the market to squeeze them out. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually understands what happens in the Drug Market place.

The marketing by the major drug companies cross the line repeatedly into fraud.

Mar. 19 2009 12:15 PM

the generic version of Zertec does not even come close to its Rx version.

Mar. 19 2009 11:45 AM

I've had doctors get rather huffy with me when I ask them to prescribe a generic rather than a namebrand medication. It makes me wonder what sort of kick-backs they're getting from the drug companies. I've even had a doctor claim that there IS no generic available, even though some quick googling proves otherwise. I hate being that patient who "looked it up on the internet" but I hate paying extra for designer drugs even more.

Mar. 19 2009 11:36 AM

When I was 40, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and prescribed Ritalin. At some point during the first year of taking this medication, I found the new bottle wasn't helping. I took a look at it--something I didn't normally do--and discovered the pharmacy had filled it as generic ritalin, methylphenadate. For some reason, it wasn't as effective as the brand-name version. Since then, my doc has to write "DAW"--but this year (15 years later), my BCBS now refuses to pay anything for ritalin. My doc is trying to appeal this decision, but not having any luck right now. I'm paying out of pocket on top of paying Cobra of $517/month (and desperately looking for work).

Mar. 19 2009 11:03 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About Huh. (The Brian Lehrer Show Blog)

It's the Brian Lehrer Show's blog. Stuff that will hopefully make you say "Huh."


Supported by