Generic Drugs: Dangerous Differences?

Still, physicians continue to debate whether the findings of ConsumerLab.com can be tied to the reports of adverse effects from generics. Indeed, Simon said that the slight differences in generic formulations are not always detrimental to patients.

"I think it crucial to emphasize, however, that the differences can go in either direction," he said. "I've certainly seen patients who had better results -- fewer side effects or better benefit -- from a generic-sustained release product than the brand product. So I'd strongly discourage any generic warnings about generic drugs."

How Patients Can Protect Themselves

If there is one point on which all the doctors agree, it is that patients can do much to protect their health by sharing any concerns they have about a recent switch to generics with their doctors.

"If a patient is experiencing symptoms, they should talk to their doctor or pharmacist regardless of what treatment they are getting," said Kevin Moores, director of the Division of Drug Information Service at the University of Iowa.

Cooperman added that homing in on which generics are exactly the same as their brand-name counterparts may be key.

"We have a number of tips for consumers in the report," he said. "For example, some generics are actually identical to the original products. So if you know which ones are identical, you will at least know they will act like the original product. Consumers should try to find authorized generics.

"If you find one that's working for you, when you get your prescription filled again, insist that you get that brand."

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