Generic medications save patients millions of dollars a year. Some estimates put the savings to American consumers at close to half a billion dollars, with room to kick it up to about a billion. With generic medications, I can treat a diabetic with heart disease with the proper medications for less than thirty dollars a month.
But people don’t always trust generics, sometimes with good reason. One manufacturer of generic bupropion, a popular antidepressant, was forced by the FDA to recall their product because, basically, it didn’t work.
Now another generic disaster has hit the news. This time it’s for one of the generics of Lipitor (atorvastatin), manufactured by one of India’s largest corporations. Reportedly, some batches may have ground glass in the pill, but we’re told not to worry because they are only “about the size of a grain of sand.”
The company, Ranbaxy, has been under FDA scrutiny for a while for potentially shoddy manufacturing practices.
Once again, Americas are faced with a healthcare decision: generics save us money. They will save us less money if we step up regulation and enforcement. Do we want to pay for it? And how?
I’ve had many patients digging into their savings to buy brand name drugs to avoid what they now perceive to be dangerous generics. How do doctors and the public know which manufacturers to trust? Most of the time, we don’t even know which generic our patients are getting (is it from Teva, Ranbaxy, Pfizer?).
Americans haven’t even decided if we want access to affordable, quality health care for all. These sort of incidents muddy the waters even further.
The more I think about this, the more pissed off I’m getting. Why should we feel we need to choose between drugs that are cost effective and drugs that are safe? It’s a false dilemma, one driven by the way we approach health care in this country as a commodity rather than a basic human right.