Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Switch to Generic?

Janet writes: Our health insurance company insists on generic medications when they are available. We can get brand name, but our doctors must specifically prescribe and pre-authorize these and we have to pay a higher co-pay. Most of the time it’s not an issue.

This past week, however, it was a pretty big issue. Most people with MS are on some type of anti-depressant, and Tim uses Effexor. Well, the generic form of Effexor was recently approved and, of course, our insurance company automatically switched his prescription. We didn’t think anything of it, but after a day or two taking these capsules Tim started complaining of dizzy spells, more anxiety, more difficulty focusing, and more word finding problems. He also started his “wobbly walk” thing again.

We called the doctor, explained the drug switch, and the doctor put him back on brand name Effexor. This required a couple of days to allow the prior authorization to go through. By yesterday, after not having had his drug for almost a week, Tim had a fairly major “meltdown” that was so bad he couldn’t even describe it to me. (Other than the tremors which I could see.) Let’s just say I was ready to haul him into the emergency room. I called the drugstore, however, and the prescription was ready, so I picked it up and he took one right away. After a day and another pill, he is fine and out on the lake fishing.

So the moral of this story is, don’t let your insurance company switch your medications without approval from your doctor. Even if the active ingredient is the same, the inactive ingredients may not be, and you may not react to these medications the same way that you react to the brand name drugs. This doesn’t mean that generic medications are bad, and they do save you money, but please make sure they are the right medications for your condition before making the switch.

Here’s a short, easy to understand article on the differences between brand name and generic medications:

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