generics versus brand name medications: are they the same?A while back I wrote about generic versus patented Concerta, a long-acting stimulant drug used to treat ADHD. Recently, as I was filling out a questionnaire for Canadian adults with ADHD at Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC), this very topic came up.

I just about choked when I read the question, have you contacted Health Canada about being switched to the generic substitute? Why no, I thought; I had no idea I could do that.

Turns out our Canadian advocacy organization, CADDAC, has been on top of this issue for some time. There’s even a letter from Health Canada on their website for public perusal. Way to go, CADDAC!

Worth re-visiting (unlike a long-lost ex)

This got me thinking again about the whole generic versus patented drug issue.

For me, switching from the brand-name to the generic was like accidentally taking a bite out of a fake wax apple from the fruit bowl when you were expecting a ripe juicy organic. Yick. I felt awful on the generic. And I’m not the only one (see CADDAC’s examples of feedback)

Maybe the generic “Concerta” would work for people who don’t have ADHD but who are fond of saying, “Ooh! I just had an ADHD moment.” Maybe; but it sure didn’t help me.

Meds medley

Since the majority of ADHDers have at least one co-existing condition (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.) to deal with besides their ADHD (we’re blessed that way) it’s important to note that the generic versus brand-name issue holds true not just for Concerta, but for other medications.

There’s a great article about this issue called, Can You Feel the Difference? in the September 2011 issue of the Reader’s Digest (Canadian imprint) by Michael Kennedy. Kennedy dispels some of the myths and assumptions about generic drugs being just as good as their expensive brand-name counterparts. I learned this the hard way. You don’t have to.

Growing concern, not just for ADHD meds substitutes

According to Kennedy, neurologists and pharmacologists are becoming more concerned that generic drugs just aren’t cutting it. In Canada, he notes, it takes a lot more to prove that the original medication is safe, than it does to prove that a generic drug is comparable.

Kennedy is quick to say that not all generics suck. But of interest to those of us here at Psych Central, he includes antidepressants amongst the culprits.

What’s really mind-blowing is that most of us assume (yeah, yeah, I know the old saying about “assume”) that by taking a generic we’ll be saving money (generic drugs cost about 60% less than brand name) without any risk. But there is another saying that also applies to the situation: you get what you pay for!

We’re not always told that a substitute has been dispensed. How can we know that our generic medication is messing with us when we don’t even know we’re on it? If we’re not monitoring for any negative effects we might suffer, we’ll end up blaming feeling crappy on anything but the actual cause: the generic.

Most of us would also assume that if the generic and brand-name have the same amount of active ingredient, they’ll work the same.

Nope. Even if the amount of active ingredient is equivalent, the other components of the generic can affect the amount of medicine that’s absorbed – therefore the drug’s effectiveness is impacted. The generic drug might be weaker or stronger than the patented version.

So make sure to ask if it’s a generic or the brand-name that’s being dispensed.


As for me, I’m planning a dinner party for Health Canada officials. I’m serving duck decoy à la plastic orange.  Let’s see how they like it.

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