The People's Perspective on Medicine

Wellbutrin XL Antidepressant Is Affordable in Canada

The FDA rarely admits a mistake. But after years of wrangling, we finally got the FDA to admit that a generic Wellbutrin XL antidepressant was a problem.

Several years ago we shook up the Food and Drug Administration when we complained about a generic form of the Wellbutrin XL antidepressant. We had received hundreds of complaints about a branded generic called Budeprion XL 300 distributed by Teva. Starting in February, 2007, people who had been treated successfully with Wellbutrin XL 300 reported that they experienced side effects on Budeprion XL 300. Symptoms included headache, tremor, irritability, anxiety, nausea, panic attacks and insomnia. Even worse, many people reported that their depression returned on the generic form of the Wellbutrin XL antidepressant.

Reports from Readers About Wellbutrin XL 300:

Between 2007 and 2012 we received so many complaints about Budeprion XL 300 that we lost count. Here are just a couple of examples:

Donna figured out the problem quite quickly:

“At the end of 2006, my insurance company restructured their drug tier system, putting my Wellbutrin XL 300 in the top [most expensive] tier. The pharmacy filled my prescription with the generic Budeprion XL 300.

“Within a few days, it was obvious the generic was not working. I felt anxious, upset, shaky, sad–-all the feelings I had had which prompted the initial anti-depressant prescription for Wellbutrin. In addition, the Budeprion reeked of chlorine. Upon noticing these problems, I immediately quit taking the generic and demanded a refill with the brand name Wellbutrin. I had my doctor include “no substitution” on my prescription. It is apparent to me that this generic is NOT the same as the brand name drug and DOES NOT work!”

Jen had classic symptoms of too much bupropion too fast:

“After taking the generic form of Wellbutrin XL antidepressant called Budeprion XL, I would have extreme nausea and anxiety. These symptoms would begin about an hour after taking my medication and begin to get better after 12 hours.

“I began having this sense of doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, crying episodes, dizziness, nausea and feel out of it. Finally, I put it together that this was related to the drug because when I wouldn’t take it I would begin to feel better. Not normal, but better. I have reported this to the FDA and will be seeing my doctor this week. I believe Budeprion XL is making me very sick and will not take it ever again.”

We have received hundreds of similar messages over a decade ago.

What Went Wrong with the Wellbutrin XL Antidepressant?

The FDA had approved Budeprion XL 300 with no actual testing. The agency relied on a different formulation, Budeprion XL 150. After we badgered the agency mercilessly for years, the FDA finally ordered bioequivalence testing on several generic bupropion XL products as well as the generic Budeprion XL 300.

On Oct. 3, 2012 the FDA revealed that there were indeed problems with generic formulations of the Wellbutrin XL antidepressant. This left lots of people feeling vindicated. But it didn’t help them figure out what to do about their depression.

When Insurance Companies Require Generics!

Very few insurance companies are willing to pay for a pricey brand name medicine if there are generic products available on the market. Such is the case with Wellbutrin.

This mother relates a sad story:

Q. My husband, son and I have all been diagnosed with major depression and prescribed Wellbutrin XL. We can’t afford the brand name for all of us, so I’ve looked for an authorized generic. I couldn’t find it. Is there one?

Recently my son’s prescription was filled with bupropion from an Indian manufacturer. After reading Katherine Eban’s book, Bottle of Lies, I’d like to return the generic drug. But I don’t know which manufacturer to request instead.

A. As far as we can tell there is no authorized generic version of Wellbutrin XL. An authorized generic drug is manufactured with the same formulation as the brand name medicine, frequently on the same production line. That is why people who are concerned about generic drug quality often request the authorized generic, if there is one.

People are still complaining about generic bupropion. Here is a link to more recent messages from readers. 

The Irony of the Wellbutrin XL 300 Price!

You may still be able to save money on your antidepressant, however. Although Wellbutrin XL 300 could cost more than $2,000 for a month’s supply in the U.S., ordering this brand name medicine from a legitimate Canadian pharmacy would result in a monthly bill between $43 and $60 for 30 pills.

This information comes from www.PharmacyChecker.com, a site that vets online Canadian pharmacies.

Here is the kicker, though. The company that now sells the brand name Wellbutrin XL 300 is Canadian. Biovail acquired the rights to market and distribute Wellbutrin XL 300 in the U.S. from GlaxoSmithKline. It can sell this brand name antidepressant in the U.S. for as much as it wants.

According to data from GoodRx, some pharmacy chains charge as much $2,300 for a month’s supply. In Canada, where the brand name drug originates, the cost is usually less than $85 for a three month’s supply. That’s for the brand name, not a generic. What’s wrong with this picture? In our opinion, everything!

To learn more about authorized generic drugs and ordering online, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Saving Money on Medicines. You will find it in the Health eGuide section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Please share your own experience with with generic drugs and brand name prices 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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Up until late 2009 my generic Wellbutrin XL was working until I was switched to a different manufacturer (Actavis). At that time I became suicidal and ended up losing my job. My employer worked on a point system, and I ran out of points during recovery. My psychiatrist said he had several clients that had similar experiences on that manufacturer’s generic. From then on I only get brand name. I try to get brand name for everything if insurance will cover it. You just don’t know what garbage is added to generics. For example, I was given generic Adderall 10 mg. instant release. When that wasn’t enough, we increased it to 15 mg. The 15 mg. was a smaller pill than the 10 mg. How does that happen unless they are adding so much garbage to it?

I tried Wellbutrin for depression years ago, and it gave me worrisome heart palpitations. I wonder if this is a common side effect.

Several years ago my doctor began trying add-on antidepressants when my (generic) sertraline was having no effect on my major depression. After trying a few different drugs w/ no positive effect, she prescribed generic Budeprion XL 300 as an add-on. Within 3 days, I ended up in the hospital after a grand mal seizure caused by serotonin syndrome. After that, I discontinued all prescriptions and refused to “try” additional anti-depressants and my doctor labeled me as noncompliant. It’s difficult to find a doctor who is willing to actually listen to their patients instead of drug companies anymore. (But she is certainly no longer my physician.) Still looking for a decent one but don’t hold out much hope.

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