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Specifics on a generic problem

December 24, 2007

Re "Generic drugs' hidden downside," Opinion, Dec. 17

Naomi Wax had a poor response from generic Zoloft and cites the example of another brand-name medication (Wellbutrin XL 300) that has had problems with its generic counterpart. In this case, the generic may release the active ingredient more quickly, which could result in more side effects and lower efficacy for some patients. But Wax was using a generic version of an immediate-release drug that would not have similar issues. Her poor response could be attributable to the large placebo effect from the use of antidepressants and her distrust in receiving a different generic. It is unwise to raise this issue by comparing to something that is not equivalent.

The problems with the use of generics represent a tiny fraction of the generic drug market. Most generics have the same effect and save money. Where they do not, the patient should be informed.

Karen Shapiro

San Marino

The writer is a clinical pharmacist.

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The problems related to generic drugs are not limited to antidepressants. My insurance will pay only for the generic version of Zestoretic, which controls blood pressure. When I tried it, my blood pressure went up 20 points in about two weeks. I now take only Zestoretic and pay the full cost. Based on my experience, generics are not equal to the real drug, and the Food and Drug Administration does a poor job of approving them as such.

Charles Fawcett

Westminster

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Wax offered her opinion about generics but ignored the long-standing scientific and medical facts. The Food and Drug Administration has unequivocally stated that an FDA-reviewed and approved generic medicine has the same health benefits as its brand-name counterpart. The FDA has a dedicated team of scientists who rigorously examine all generics for safety and efficacy.

By contrast, Wax cites the data from a for-profit company, Consumer Lab, whose findings have been called into question by respected organizations, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia. Consumer Lab's primary focus is on running a profitable company, while the FDA's focus is on ensuring the safety and efficacy of patients' medicines. It's clear whose results patients should choose.

If patients are concerned about any medication they take, generic or brand, they should consult their healthcare providers. In the meantime, they should rest assured that generics are only approved by the FDA if they have the same effective results as the brands.

Kathleen Jaeger

President, Chief Executive

Generic Pharmaceutical Assn., Arlington, Va.

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