logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Generic Antibiotic Doxycycline Did Not Work!

Do you trust generic drugs? Should you? What about a generic antibiotic like DOXY? If an antibiotic doesn't work, lives could be in jeopardy.
FDA Approved words on an orange pill or medicine bottle with long shadow

For decades, most of the medicines Americans took were made in the U.S. That was true for brand-name drugs as well as generics. Over the last decade or two, though, drug companies realized that they could save a lot of money if they purchased pharmaceutical ingredients from abroad. Both China and India, as well as many other countries, realized that they could make huge profits by supplying the American market. But if a generic antibiotic like doxycycline doesn’t work, it could become a life-threatening situation.

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Generic Drugs:

Starting in 1976, we were among the FDA’s biggest boosters when it came to generic drugs. We encouraged patients to badger their health professionals for generics whenever possible. That was largely because we thought brand name medicines were too expensive.

We still believe that drugs cost far too much, but over the last two decades we have become distrustful of the FDA. We think the agency has made serious mistakes about how it approves generic drugs. We are also disturbed about the way the FDA oversees manufacturing and shipping of medications made abroad.

A Generic Antibiotic: Doxycycline (Vibramycin):

We think the generic drug problem is especially worrisome when it comes to a medicine like doxycycline, a generic antibiotic that is essential for many serious illnesses. This tetracycline antibiotic is prescribed for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anthrax, malaria, urinary tract infections, STDs and bacterial infections in the lungs. If a generic antibiotic like doxy doesn’t work, it could be disastrous.

A Reader Complains About the Generic Antibiotic Doxycycline:

Q. I have no confidence that any generic drug actually contains its active ingredient in the right amount and is not contaminated. 
I recently had bronchitis and took the generic antibiotic doxycycline. It had no effect.

Then I read the People’s Pharmacy article about “authorized generics” and got the authorized generic of doxycycline. That worked! Amazing. Recently, my pharmacy told me that the authorized generic of doxycycline has been discontinued.

The new book, Bottle of Lies, by Katherine Eban is a well-researched story of how FDA inspectors in India and China found repeated pharma company deception, failure and contamination. And the FDA repeatedly failed to take action.

Generic drugs were a great idea, an appropriate public service. That idea has been corrupted by greed and helped along by FDA inaction. Americans no longer benefit; it seems that only the brand name pharma companies benefit from the current situation.

A. Authorized generic drugs are made with the same “recipe” as their brand name counterparts. Sometimes they are even made on the same factory line. We encourage people to request an authorized generic if they have concerns about their medication. Here is a link to our list of authorized generic drugs:

Authorized Generic Drugs Offer Quality and Affordability

We are glad you found Katherine Eban’s book helpful. We recommend it highly for anyone who wants to understand the problems with generic drugs. You can listen to our free podcast with Katherine Eban at this link:

Show 1169: What Are the Problems with Generic Drugs?

When investigative journalist Katherine Eban took a close look at medicine manufacturing, she uncovered many frightening problems with generic drugs.

You can listen to the free streaming audio by clicking on the arrow inside the green circle under Katherine’s photograph. Or, if you prefer, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the free mp3 link.

Can You Get Your Generic Drugs Tested?

One pharmacy that tests every lot of medicine it dispenses is www.Valisure.com. That way you can be assured there are no contaminants and that the product contains the right amount of medicine.

We wish we could trust all generic drugs, especially generic antibiotic medications like doxycycline. If you would like to read about our transition from FDA cheerleaders to FDA skeptics, check out the chapter “Generic Drug Screwups” in our book, Top Screwups.

Share your own story about generic drugs in the comment section below. We want to hear all sorts of experiences, whether positive or negative.

Rate this article
4.4- 65 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them

It is a well-kept secret, but harm from health care is a leading cause of death in this country. Get practical suggestions to protect yourself and loved ones from medical mistakes & drug disasters.

Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 10 comments
Add your comment

I have taken a modest amount of generic hydrocodone for chronic osteoarthritis pain for more than 5 years. I am not addicted or tolerant, and it has worked well all this time. Within the last year my local pharmacy suddenly switched to a supplier from India, and it is like a placebo. I complained to no avail. Then I found that every major pharmacy in my area only had the same useless brand. Finally found an independent pharmacy and got one made in America. It is not quite as good as the one I had. I found that extensive online reviews of hydrocodone all report the same thing. It is a pity that patients with a genuine need for pain medication are having to suffer.

My husband has been on Brand name Lipitor for 24 years (for hereditary hyperlipidemia). Five times (!) my insurance company has insisted that he try a generic version. He has failed miserably each time (e.g., side effects, worsening lipid profile, increased BP, etc).

I have had to fight the insurance company each time to get a one year approval for Lipitor (I believe the turning point was requesting the name of the PharmD and/or MD who refused my request so I would know who to name in a suit when my husband developed cardiac complications. As I said to them, I would much rather pay $0 than $200 for a 90 day supply). Even his PCP (who was skeptical at first agrees that the generic doesn’t work for him. His cardiologist (soon to be replaced) doesn’t believe it.

I have a PhD in nursing and consider myself a very informed consumer. I never buy brand name unless (as in this case) the generic doesn’t work. I am even more informed now that I read Katherine Eban’s excellent book. I will be referencing it in my annual request for brand name Lipitor.

I was taking a generic tablet form of doxycycline. It wasn’t working till I split the tablet. Apparently the coating wasn’t dissolving right.

Where I get my drugs they are changing vendors all the time. A college friend who worked selling drugs to drug buyers told me that if some company drops their price on a drug by a penny a pill or less, the buyers will load up on it just to prove what great buyers they are and all the money they are saving for their company. The reason the producers lower their price is because they have an inferior product or they have got thousand of pills which have been sitting around in their hot warehouse for a year or two and they just want to get rid of them.

The U.S. does a terrible job of inspecting these Indian and other producers.

I was prescribed doxycycline for a persistent UTI. Half way through the 10 days I stared feeling pain throughput my body I did not have before. So I called my doctor and told them I could no longer take it. As soon as I stopped taking the doxycycline I started feeling better but still had the UTI.

Doxycycline, the generic for Vibramycin, was in short supply about five years ago because the only US producer was shut down by the FDA for a problem with an injectable drug unrelated to other drug manufacturing. Doxycycline is made from base tetracycline made in China.
The shortage raised the cost from 4 cents per pill to $5 and the price has never gotten back down.
Taking doxycycline for bronchitis is very effective if it is used to target the right micro-organism. Bronchitis is the description of a number of symptoms, not a specific disease, which can be viral, or caused by several different bacteria.
My experience as a dentist is that the generic has been highly effective unless it is the wrong antibiotic, not that it didn’t work.

Have taken DOXY twice in widely separate times. Both times resulted in Sllver Dollar sized pink/red spots appearing all over my body. Iched. Last time only took 3 doses but spots lasted ywollltwo weeks!! THERE WILL BE NO THIRD TIME!!!!

My son was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the hospital and given doxycycline. In 3 days he was released to family doctor and given the generic doxy. His symptoms returned with a vengence and I bought the nongeneric doxy and it worked. I don’t trust any generic and pharma companies should be fined for putting lives in danger, all for their greed.

I never trusted generic drugs. I never trusted drugs from countries such as China, India, Mexico. I always choose brand name drugs, many times I find there is not much difference in cost and could be life saving as well. The greedy controlled FDA, politicians, govt. and big pharma can no longer be trusted with our health. Their main goals are hugh profits, control and greed, they do not put the patient/consumer first. It’s disgusting, the USA, can’t be trusted or believed to take care of it’s people, welfare & health. Check out the nursing homes when the drug deliveries come and the people are drugged up most of the day, especially after dinner. So sad to see, again, in this country!

The difficulty here is, was the failure due to the first generic drug “not working”, or was it simply a case where a longer treatment regimen was required to cure the infection? Convincing people that the second scenario could be the reason for the original apparent failure isn’t easy, as neither side of the argument is provable. There is a failure in logic called “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc”(Literally: “After this, therefore because of this”). Just because the therapeutic failure followed the taking of the first brand of generic doesn’t necessarily mean that generic caused the initial failure. The same applies to viral colds seeming to get better when an antibiotic is used. Fact is, over a course of 7 to 10 days, the cold would’ve gotten better anyways.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^