Generic med recalls in the news

Generic medications save patients millions of dollars a year. Some estimates put the savings to American consumers at close to half a billion dollars, with room to kick it up to about a billion. With generic medications, I can treat a diabetic with heart disease with the proper medications for less than thirty dollars a month.

But people don’t always trust generics, sometimes with good reason. One manufacturer of generic bupropion, a popular antidepressant, was forced by the FDA to recall their product because, basically, it didn’t work.

Now another generic disaster has hit the news. This time it’s for one of the generics of Lipitor (atorvastatin), manufactured by one of India’s largest corporations. Reportedly, some batches may have ground glass in the pill, but we’re told not to worry because they are only “about the size of a grain of sand.”

The company, Ranbaxy, has been under FDA scrutiny for a while for potentially shoddy manufacturing practices.

Once again, Americas are faced with a healthcare decision: generics save us money. They will save us less money if we step up regulation and enforcement. Do we want to pay for it? And how?

I’ve had many patients digging into their savings to buy brand name drugs to avoid what they now perceive to be dangerous generics. How do doctors and the public know which manufacturers to trust? Most of the time, we don’t even know which generic our patients are getting (is it from Teva, Ranbaxy, Pfizer?).

Americans haven’t even decided if we want access to affordable, quality health care for all. These sort of incidents muddy the waters even further.


The more I think about this, the more pissed off I’m getting. Why should we feel we need to choose between drugs that are cost effective and drugs that are safe? It’s a false dilemma, one driven by the way we approach health care in this country as a commodity rather than a basic human right.


  1. saffronrose

     /  December 3, 2012

    Ok, so is a bit of ground glass the size of a grain of sand going to be noticeable to my innards? My Rxs all say who the mfr is, and that’s the mfr of the atorvastatin I take.

    I’ll certainly inform my endo & internist. I’m certainly not happy with Ranbaxy at this point. I’ll read the article you mention & link. Thanks!

  2. Jen

     /  December 3, 2012

    The Excedrin and Tylenol fiascos illustrate that even the big-gun pharmas aren’t without their problems. Even though these are OTC products and not quite as pricey as brand-name prescriptions, cost-cutting in quality-control measures appears to be an issue at all levels.

  3. JustaTech

     /  December 3, 2012

    My mother-in-law discovered that not all generics of the same drug are interchangable. She moved (in-city) and so switched her perscriptions to a closer grocery store of a different chain. As soon as she started her new refill she had all kinds of new and nasty side effects (I don’t remember what the drug was for, probably blood pressure). She talked to her doctor and ended up switching back to her old pharmacy so that the “inactive” ingredients would be the same.

  1. Affordable or Safe — you decide | Side Effects May Include…
%d bloggers like this: