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Three incidents involving ineffective generic drugs recently occurred in my life.

Incident #1:

After taking Zoloft for years I switched, without problem, to the generic Sertraline carried by my local pharmacy. Then, in an effort to economize, I ordered my prescription through a popular mail-delivery system which sent Sertraline manufactured by yet another company. Within a month my depression returned and I knew the antidepressant wasn't working. I switched back to the local generic and felt improvements in just over two weeks.

Clearly, even though the active ingredient was guaranteed to be the same, those two generics were not identical.

Incident #2

I recently received an online newsletter from Julie Fast, who blogs at bipolarhappens, in which she shared her recent medication woes.

Open about her life with bipolar disorder, Julie shared details of the past few months, citing changes in energy levels, focus, sociability, and anxiety levels.

In one paragraph, Julie says "...I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. I was so restless. But I was also super tired! Then the depression started. It was the kind of depression where I not only felt hopeless, I cried a lot and had trouble completing tasks. I have been like this many times in my life, so I kept going, but it was hard."

All of these changes occurred despite the fact that Julie carefully managed her lifestyle and consistently took her meds. Then it occurred to her-- just prior to her deterioration, Julie had switched from Lamictal to the generic Lamotrigine.

Incident #3:

My daughter Chloe suddenly began rapid-cycling, even though she, too, was completely medically compliant, saw her doctors regularly, and managed her lifestyle.

I asked, "Have you switched to any generics in the last few weeks?"

Sure enough, like Julie, Chloe has switched to a generic form of Lamictal just a couple of weeks before her health worsened. And like Julie, when Chloe returned to non-generic, brand-name Lamictal, she stabilized and felt better.

How can this be?

Aren't generic drugs supposed to be exactly the same?

Well...not exactly...

Even though the active ingredients must be the same as their brand-name counterparts, generics can be manufactured with different fillers and inactive ingredients. These minor alterations sometimes cause the medication to metabolize and work differently.

Don't get me wrong...generics are usually just as good as the brand names and they save millions in healthcare costs each year. But in those rare instances when they are not as effective as the original, they should not be used. So try generics, but be aware of how well they're working. Be your own best advocate.

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