Can $4 Generic Drugs be Harmful or Cost Effective

by Mary Jane Stern

generic medication, medicare d helpBeing involved with Medicare Part D leads me to question whether the generic drugs we purchase for $4 have the same efficacy as brand name drugs.  Let me explain why I question this.

Today my husband saw his Cardiologist for a follow-up visit for a nuclear stress test he had recently.  Everything looked the same, no changes, that’s good.  But, one of my husband’s chief complaints is excessive tiredness over the last several months.

Quality Standards for Generic Drugs

What’s causing the problem? Could the tiredness be a result of one of his major heart medications, which we have been buying as a $4 generic for the last two years, and has not been manufactured correctly?  This drug is Carvedilol and the brand is Coreg.

His cardiologist pointed out that many of the retailers of generic drugs are receiving large incentives from the generic drug manufacturers and they could be purchasing the drug from 10 – 12 different companies, all with a different standard of manufacturing.

Yes, the $4 generics help keep us out of the Part D “do nut” hole.

Questions About Generic Drug Manufacturing

Now this really got me thinking, because another of his heart medications, a $4 generic, that he has been taking for years had 2 recalls during 2008 – 2009.  To me, this is significant and leads me to question how the retailers are qualifying the manufacturers of any and all $4 generic drugs. Are these generic drugs meeting the standards in the USA set by the FDA?  Do they have the same efficacy as brand name drugs?

Questions About Sales and Marketing Tactics

The next question I asked myself is this just a great selling and persuasion technique convincing physicians to start prescribing and encourage patients to take the new version of Coreg, which is Coreg CR, versus the $4 generic?  The patent on Coreg expired on March 5, 2007 and the first patent for Coreg CR expires December 2015.

In about six weeks my questions should be answered. We will know if the excess tiredness was caused as a result of the generic drug as he will start taking the new Coreg CR.  Now, I have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how long it will be before we hit the Part D“do nut” hole as the retail price is about $120 per month versus $4.

If you have been prescribed Coreg CR, you can go to, signup and receive $10 off your co-pay for 12 months. Not sure how long this will last, but it was there today, October 2009.

1 Response

  1. This is what I found on Medicine Net; "Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts." found here: The article explains that generics are only cheaper because there hasn't been as much money spent on development costs. They also say that "When a company brings a new drug onto the market, the firm has already spent substantial money on research, development, marketing and promotion of the drug. A patent is granted that gives the company that developed the drug an exclusive right to sell the drug as long as the patent is in effect. As the patent nears expiration, manufacturers can apply to the FDA for permission to make and sell generic versions of the drug; and without the startup costs for development of the drug, other companies can afford to make and sell it more cheaply. When multiple companies begin producing and selling a drug, the competition among them can also drive the price down even further. So there's no truth in the myths that generic drugs are manufactured in poorer-quality facilities or are inferior in quality to brand-name drugs. " I was very interested in your blog because I just found a great site called Medtipster where you search to find discount generic alternatives in your neighborhood (for only $4).