Beware: Generic drug is not always identical to brand

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

February 08, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I had a terrible experience with a generic high blood pressure medication. For five years, I took Tenoretic. Both my doctor and I were pleased with the results.

Then the pharmacist encouraged me to switch to atenolol, its generic counterpart. Two weeks later I had a routine dental appointment. My dentist would not clean my teeth because my blood pressure was dangerously high. He instructed me to go directly to my doctor.

I switched back to Tenoretic, and my blood pressure went back to normal. My insurance company tried to make me take atenolol instead, but I have refused. It is not what my doctor prescribed. Why is everyone so enthusiastic about generics?

Some insurance companies are trying to save money at your expense. But even more alarming, Tenoretic contains two ingredients -- atenolol, a beta blocker, and chlorthalidone, a diuretic. Switching you to atenolol alone was unethical, if not illegal. The pharmacy deleted an important ingredient in your blood pressure management when it made this switch.

In addition, we cannot discount the possibility that the generic atenolol was not equal to that in the branded product. We have heard from many other readers who did not get the same benefits from a generic as from the original branded medicine. People who wish to report such problems may e-mail us at pharmacy@mindspring. com for forwarding to the Food and Drug Administration.

Sleep has become a scarce commodity in our house. I have difficulty falling asleep. My husband, on the other hand, is asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. But he has to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. He wakes me up, and then both of us have a hard time getting back to sleep.

On occasion, I have slept in the guest bedroom, but this is such a drastic measure that I would hate to do it all the time. How do we solve this dilemma?

Sleep is essential for good health, and you both need different approaches to solve your problems. You might benefit from a hot bath an hour or two before bedtime. This will help your body reset its clock for sleep.

Your husband might need a drug or herb (saw palmetto) to treat an enlarged prostate if that is why he has to get up to use the bathroom. Short-acting sleeping pills, particularly Sonata, might be effective in helping him get back to sleep without a morning hangover.

I broke out in a terrible rash after taking the amoxicillin my dentist prescribed. My neighbor said that means I'm allergic to penicillin, but a friend said I should avoid amoxicillin, but not penicillin. Please set me straight.

Your neighbor's advice trumps your friend's. Amoxicillin is an "aminopenicillin." There are many penicillin-type medications, including ampicillin (Principen), amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox), carbenicillin (Geocillin), penicillin G (Pfizerpen), penicillin V (Veetids), oxacillin and ticarcillin (Ticar).

People who are allergic to one form of penicillin could be allergic to all others. For some, this can be a life-threatening reaction.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them through their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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