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Generic Drugs Hammered | Are AUTHORIZED Generics the Answer?

The FDA has been criticized for its oversight of generic drugs. Major news stories this week dealt a blow to this industry. What about authorized generics?
FDA Approved words on an orange pill or medicine bottle with long shadow

This has been a very bad week for generic drug manufacturers and the FDA. Here are just a few of the stories that have made headlines. “A New Book Argues That Generic Drugs Are Poisoning Us” (New York Times, May 13, 2019). “Americans Need Generic Drugs. But Can They Trust Them?” (New York Times, May 11, 2019). “Allegations of widespread fraud raise questions about the safety of generic drugs made overseas” (CBS News, May, 10, 2019). “Generic drug companies, executives slapped with price-fixing lawsuit” (CNN, May 13, 2019). “60 Minutes Reports: Prescription Drug Price Fixing” (60 Minutes Overtime, May 12, 2019). Are AUTHORIZED generic drugs an answer?

This reader wants to know About Effective Generic Drugs:

Q. I really appreciate the information I get from your newsletter. From reading it, I learned about authorized generic drugs.

I began using the generic of Celebrex from Greenstone about two years ago and noticed a marked difference from taking ordinary generic celecoxib.

Now, I’ve been told that Greenstone is no longer producing this authorized generic. Do you have any suggestions where I can obtain the quality generic for Celebrex? I am looking for a 100 mg dose.

A. Greenstone is a subsidiary of Pfizer. As a result, this generic drug maker distributes a number of authorized generic versions of Pfizer brand-name medications.

An authorized generic is one licensed by the brand-name maker. It may be manufactured in the same plant or even on the same production line as its brand-name equivalent.

Unlike most other generic drugs, an authorized generic is made to the exact same “recipe.” Consequently, most people report reacting to these generic drugs the same way they respond to the brand-name counterparts.

Disappointment with celecoxib:

We have heard from many other readers that they were disappointed with some of the generic versions of celecoxib. They say they don’t get the same pain relief that they got from Celebrex.

Stories from Readers:

Terry reports this failure:

“I’ve been on Celebrex for almost 10 years for fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis. The brand name gave me much relief. When I had to change insurance companies, I had to use generic celecoxib. I’ve tried several different manufacturers, and NONE work as well as the brand.”

Cathie agrees with Terry:

“You are correct that the generic Celebrex is NOT the same. I had an old prescription and noticed that the original works. The drug insurance plans are crooks. They know it doesn’t work the same. Shame on on these companies to make patients suffer.”

Pieter used to get relief from Celebrex:

“I have used Celebrex for years for my back pain. It always helped after taking about 5 tablets over 5 days. Last year I was told by my doctor to start using celecoxib – because it is now generic and paid for by insurance!

“Over the last 4 months I have used 120 celecoxib tablets and my pain has not improved. In fact it has gotten worse. Am I the only person that is experiencing this result? I am of the belief that celecoxib is a generic tablet and DEFINITELY does not have the same pain relief?”

Rebecca says she can tell the difference quickly:

“Celecoxib does not meet the standards of brand name Celebrex! It is ineffective, and that was obvious to me within days of taking the generic instead of the real drug. It is very disappointing that insurance refuses to pay for the real drug, and some will not even pay for the generic. The difference in the two is very noticeable almost immediately.”

Shirley had experience with Celebrex:

“I tried celecoxib for 6 months in 2017 after being on Celebrex for YEARS. I experienced swelling and pain from this worthless generic. I started taking 2 daily and I still got no relief. My rheumatologist said not to take 2 pills daily. Medicaid punished me for getting Celebrex by charging me almost $400 for a 3 month’s supply. They care not that this generic is NOTHING like Celebrex.”

Gay has suffered!

“Over the last 6 months I have become more and more debilitated by joint pain…hips, knees, wrists, spine, etc. I suddenly felt very old! It was depressing.

“Then it dawned on me that Medicare switched from sending me Celebrex to sending celecoxib. Body pain flared up to horrific labels.

“I can’t afford Medicare’s cost for Celebrex but I can buy it cheaper in Canada. That is what I plan to do. I also plan to get my migraine meds there. I am heading online to order at a fraction of the price.”

Greenstone’s Celecoxib is Available:

We checked with Greenstone and learned the company still offers authorized generic celecoxib in a range of doses. Your pharmacist may have to special order them, however.

Here is a list of authorized generic drugs along with the manufacturers. We hope you find it helpful:

You will find a lot more information about authorized generic drugs in our eGuide to Saving Money on Medicines. You will also learn about Canadian pharmacies. This online resource is available in our Health Guide Library.

Share your own generic drug story in the comment section below.

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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.” .
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comments (13 total)
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I learned about authorized generics from your website. I dont have a problem with Celebrex, as others have mentioned. My problem has been with generic Prozac. When I first started taking it, after decades of severe depression, it was a true miracle. When my ins co refused to cover the brand name, I was forced to take a generic, and watched myself go into a rapid downward spiral, almost back to square one. It has been horrible. Other drugs have not worked. I finally called Eli Lilly this week, and this is what they told me about authorized generics: they are available for a short time after a drug goes generic. Then the drug goes public and any company can manufacture the generic. So, dont count on finding an authorized generic for every drug. Luckily for me, Lilly has a Pt. Assistance program, and it looks like I may qualify, and I will be able to get Prozac for free.(which would otherwise cost me $700/mo, which is more than half my SSD benefits!!) Check with the manufacturer to see if they have a program for you.

Though they aren’t prescription, I have found the same to be true for Advil and Allegra, with generics not working anywhere near as well.

I am now spending over $500 for a 3 month supply of Vagifem. (12 applicators) I know, peanuts compared to a lot of drug costs. Express Scripts will no longer cover any of it. I tried the generic Yuvafem for about 2 weeks, and it was awful, worse than using nothing. Beginning with the cheap, thoughtless packaging that would cut your hand if you weren’t careful I suspected it would be worthless.
Just saw that there was a recall of the Yuvafem because of the packaging, about a year ago.

Not only do consumers have to worry about the ineffectiveness of generic drugs, we also have to worry about unknown, undocumented additives and contaminants and the effects they may have on our overall health. If anyone takes more than one generic, tracking any harmful ingredients is impossible. Generic drug manufacturers show no concern and cannot be sued, and pharmaceutical distributors are only looking for the cheapest products. The FDA does nothing about this.

I also took a celebrex generic that my insurance company said I had to use. It was worthless and I have discontinued it. What is wrong with the FDA that they allow generic drugs to be marketed, and insurance companies force on us, that have no value or use to those of us who need the real thing and have found help with it but not with the generic? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Interestingly enough my Insurance company will no longer allow me to have even the generic.

The 60 minutes program highlighting generic drug manufacturers’ price-fixing collusion was certainty damning. I agree with all of the above Celebrex-experienced writers, only my drug class that doesn’t work is the Triptan group of seven, for migraines.

My condition is a rare one, and in order to get through my life and work at age 79, I must have a particular triptan, Amerge, and it must be brand-name. My neurologist has approved daily use for me, although this is not recommended for “regular”migraine folks.

This drug costs, unbelievably, $80 per pill. One can do the math to see that it is totally unaffordable at 30 per month. My pharmacists have been very kind to do research on the generic manufacturers, which is mostly hidden/hard to find. I have tried EVERY generic naratriptan, and they didn’t work at all.

I get a measly 9 per month from my Medicare D plan, so must spend $200/month buying the brand from Canada, made in the UK. Still not very affordable. This is so sad, especially for older people without the ability to bring in more income, or if people of whatever age are too sick to work at all. It is definitely not right that In our rich country ill folks have to spend such a large percentage of their income to stay functional.

For gosh sakes…even generic zyrtec doesn’t work as well,,,not at all for me. Do not let the drug companies short change us, and, stop buying everything from China.

Generic vs brand name. Think about a loaf of bread. Flour, water, yeast and salt is the basic recipe. Now think of all the variations from yuk to awesome. Drug companies know darn well what works and what doesn’t. They spend years developing the ratio and method that works or why else would they release it. They are not about
to pass on all their secrets to other companies. Sadly those that need the drug suffer for it.

I had been on Celebrex for 10 years or so before it became generic celecoxib. My first few refills worked fine and then a different manufacturer was used by my pharmacy. Within a few days the difference was remarkable. It was like taking nothing at all, After trying it for two weeks, I went back to the pharmacy and discussed it with the pharmacist. He ordered it from the original manufacturer and things have been fine since then. Formularies and hospital system contracts are degenerating the practice of medicine to an assembly line product/mentality.

I live in the Phoenix area and have been trying to purchase Greebstone Celebrex/Celecocib but the phone number you call that will help locate a pharmacy for you can’t find anything near me . I have been hoarding what few pills I have left because I wait until I can’t function before I take any of the few pills I have left. I too can’t afford the non generic. I’m angry that there is a perfectly good medicine out there but I can access it.

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