You’ve heard of generic drugs, right? They are kind of like chemical copycats of brand name medicines. There’s Prilosec, which is a brand name heartburn medicine. Then there’s the generic omeprazole. You know Viagra. Sildenafil is the generic. The trouble with generic drugs is that many of the ingredients are now made in China without a lot of FDA oversight. Finished pills are often manufactured in India, Thailand, Slovakia, Brazil, Mexico and goodness knows where else. We have questions about FDA monitoring. That’s why authorized generic drugs intrigue us. Sadly, many health professionals have no idea what they are.

Why Is It So Hard To Get Authorized Generic Drugs?

Q. I want to share my experience trying to purchase an “authorized generic” drug. Our doctor did not know what that phrase meant, nor did any of the pharmacists we talked to.

I found online the label information for the authorized generic and supplied that to CVS. CVS ordered the drug using the NDC code, but that was over a month ago and it is still not in stock.

Walgreen could not find the NDC code in their computer. In the meantime, we had to go ahead and buy the brand-name drug–over $500 for a 30-day supply. Why is this so difficult?

What Are Authorized Generic Drugs?

A. When a brand name medicine loses its patent, the original manufacturer sometimes strikes a deal with a generic drug maker. That allows the generic company to sell the exact same formulation, made from the same “recipe.” Sometimes the authorized generic is made on the same production line as the brand name drug.

As you discovered, most health professionals are unaware of this category. That may be in part because the generic drug industry, pharmacies and the FDA have promoted the idea that generic drugs in general are just as good as their brand name equivalents.

Readers Complain About Regular Generic Drugs:

Jen in Colorado has had generic drug problems:

“I used to be a staunch believer in generics, but that was before I had to take so many medications. I have rheumatoid arthritis and Addison’s disease, and I could open my own pharmacy.

“I too, have experienced severe problems and side effects with generic antidepressants, including lack of efficacy. I have actually gone without an antidepressant for years because my insurance does not want to cover brand name drugs in this class without an act of God.

“I have also run into problems switching between generic manufacturers of prednisone and hypertension medications. When will the FDA force generic manufactures to engage in some sort of trial or research that demonstrates how these drugs compare both to the original, as well as to each other?”

Susie in Indiana had problems with generic Celebrex:

“I just got the generic of Celebrex and thought it would work like the original drug that I used 4 years ago for my back and knee pain. Back then I got instant relief.

“I currently have knee pain and was prescribed the generic. It’s junk, garbage. My knee hurts so badly.

“As of today I went back on Advil, which helps a bit, but not great. I was so looking for much more relief, but the generic just doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t touch the ache. Once I take it I don’t take anything else for fear of mixing meds. This was a complete waste of money. Hopefully the FDA will recognize it’s not working.”

Marie in Windsor Heights, Iowa also had generic Celebrex problems:

“My insurance plan requires generic substitutes. I couldn’t get the brand Celebrex regardless of my Dr. calling and filing an appeal.

“Taking the generic initially didn’t cause problems but then my mail-order drug company used another manufacturer. I have lupus. The generic celecoxib caused a flare to the point I could barely walk.

“I struggled to get the brand, and finally ordered from Canada. In the USA Celebrex was $1,300.00 for 180 tabs. Canada was $420.00 for 200 tabs. Can’t wait to feel better.”

Joey in New York found generic celecoxib unhelpful but praises authorized generic drugs.

“There is no question that regular generic Celebrex does not work as well. The Greenstone authorized generic is identical to the name brand by Pfizer.

“You can take all the other generic makers of celecoxib and put them in the trash. The real stuff is formulated in a way that delivers the therapeutic dose in the correct manner. The other versions use different ingredients and may only provide 80% of the actual drug, but it’s more the formulation than the amount of drug. That’s what Pfizer put into the R & D and the others just copied but could not make it exactly like Pfizer did.”

Learn More about Authorized Generic Drugs and Online Canadian Pharmacies:

You can learn about problems that have occurred with generic drugs and more details on authorized generics in our Guide to Saving Money on Medicines. This online resource is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

What’s an NDC Anyway?

The NDC (National Drug Code) is a unique number to identify every drug sold in the U.S. The FDA maintains an online directory of all NDC identifiers.

Share your own experience with generic drugs. Have you ever purchased authorized generic drugs? How did they work? We’d love to hear your story below in the comment section.

Related People's Pharmacy Health Guide

Watch a brief welcome from Joe & Terry

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 video.