When Generic Isn't Equivalent to Name Brand

Frequently generic drugs offer health care plans and consumers a less expensive alternative to name brand medicines. But sometimes, generic drugs—such as the ones below—may not be the way to go. Before making price a priority, consult your doctor and pharmacist about possible risks.

  • Aerosol Drugs, especially those for asthma, like metaproterenol - Standards for comparing the different versions are still under development.
  • Corticosteroid creams, lotions and ointments like alclometasone - These products are standardized by tests of skin response. Many have been rated as equivalent by the FDA. But response can vary and different drug vehicles can cause variable effects.
  • Corticosteroid tablets like dexamethasone - Many generic versions are not equivalent to trade name drugs and shouldn't be freely substituted for them.
  • Drugs on the market before the 1938 amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act like digitalis derivatives - These drugs are exempt from generic drug requirements, although few pre-1938 drugs are still prescribed.
  • Hormones like esterified estrogen - The two brands of esterified estrogen are not equivalent. Since hormones are generally taken in extremely small doses, differences could produce major swings in patient response.

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