Health Team

Generic pills look different, but contain same medicine

Posted January 2, 2013


Generic drugs are used for more than 70 percent of prescription medications Americans take every year. They're popular because they're less expensive than brand names, but a new study found that many people don't take them as prescribed.

Mort Allen, 73, takes medication for hypertension, elevated cholesterol and diabetes. Managing all three can be confusing, he says.

"This one drug, it's either blue or white," Allen says. "It changes colors and so you don't really know."

A Brigham and Women's Hospital study recently found that when generic pills look different than brand name ones, patients are 50 percent more likely to stop taking them.

prescription drug Generic pills look different, but contain same medicine

Doctors caution pharmacy customers, though: Even though generic medications look different, they are still the same drug.

"During consult, we'll tell them there's a difference in shape and size," said pharmacist Dr. Ike. "In addition, we put a little sticker on the bottle saying the same exact information."

Patients should talk to their doctor or pharmacist if they have any questions.


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  • whatelseisnew Jan 9, 2013

    I have two family members that have found the generic version of a medicine they take do not work. Isn't it wonderful, instead of surgery or other actual CURATIVE procedures our lovely President simply wants to shove pills down the throats of Seniors. Then of course he wants those pills to be Generics.
    So who is choosing MONEY over lives. Correct, that would be the lefties now headed up by Obama. Both my family members spend their own money to buy the brand name of the medicines they need. Given the COST of Medicare they should be paying for brand NAMES only.

  • just my2cents Jan 8, 2013

    Thyroid meds are one that you want to pay for to get the name brand. Even though I pay big money to have insurance, I have to pay for the medicine 100% bc the generic is a no no.

  • Six String Jan 4, 2013

    I took Lipitor for a number of years and switched to the generic Atorvastatin at the request of my insurance company. Just recently got a recall notice on the generic that said some tablets make contain ground glass. Sure they are all the same. What's a little contaminant now and then?

  • dollibug Jan 4, 2013

    What works for one person may or may not work for someone else....buying only the generic is not always best....the same goes for vitamins and supplements.....the fillers in these can make a BIG DIFFERENCE....

  • whoami Jan 3, 2013

    Brand to generic appearance is not the biggest problem. The generic to generic versions are a bigger problem. Depending on who has the best deal for that month/time frame, the pharmacy can purchase from a long list of generic manufacturers. There is no consistent coloring or shape or identifying marks at all. With increased pharmacy costs these generic to generic changes are much more frequent.

  • teachnow Jan 3, 2013

    Generic may be effective for some, but after taking the generic synthroid for over a year and still having the problems, I finally convinced my doctor to at least try the synthroid. Guess what? It worked. Everyone is different. My mom can't take the synthetic either.

  • Homeward Jan 3, 2013

    Also, some neurologists are suspicious of generic Dilantin, so just always ALWAYS discuss generics with your doctor AND your pharmacist. A pharmacist you can count on is priceless! (Generic Synthroid, btw, IS effective, you just can't switch back and forth between the brand name drug and generic - a patient must stick with one OR the other.)

  • spiritseeker Jan 3, 2013

    Not only are there variants in actual strength but what the manufactures use to make the pill, caplet or capsule may cause negative reactions in those taking them and that composition has not gone thru the rigorous testing that the brand name had to go through.

  • teachnow Jan 3, 2013

    I totally agree with you msnfnp. I tried the synthetic for synthroid and did not do well on it.

  • rmrk Jan 3, 2013

    We have found when working with medications for mental health issues that generics do NOT work the same as brand name. Generics do not last as long and do not provide the same quality of response as brand names.