OTC or Generic-What Does It Mean for Me? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


OTC or Generic-What Does It Mean for Me?

It was a big deal when recently several very popular medicines went from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC). This means that consumers no longer have to go through their doctor every time they need more. But it is costing some people more money.

Let's take the example of antihistamines. A panel of the FDA decided that the type of prescription antihistamines that did not make you sleepy were both safe in themselves and would save lives since people would not have driving accidents because they were drowsy. Approximately 600 accident deaths per year had been attributed to these sedating effects. The FDA approved the company application to make them a non-prescription drug.

Claritin was a big money maker for the drug company but their patent was about to run out which would mean that other companies could copy the formula and sell generic versions of this drug. So now we have three confusing items-over-the-counter versions, copy-cat versions of the drug, and a drug, Clarinex available by prescription only.

To find a generic version, you have to do is remember the name of the ingredient (or ask your pharmacist). Loratadine containing pills can now be made by many drug companies. In fact, many drug companies will manufacture the pills and sell them to other companies who then market them as generics. Other times, the original drug company just puts new label on them and sells the product themselves.

The basic ingredient in the drug Claritin is called loratadine (sometimes combined with pseudoephedrine and called a 12 or 24 hour formula). Claritin now sells for from 66 cents to $1.30 per pill. That can be a very expensive item if you have to take it every day. And insurance which may have paid for the prescription brand probably not pay for the OTC variety. This is where the generic can save us money. Generics in one of three pharmacies surveyed averaged 31 cents per pill or more than half the cost of the brand name.

Should you switch to the generic variety? According to Dr. Roger Maikel, a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Purdue University, you should try it. You may like it and save money as well. While all generic drugs are not identical to the brand name drug, the main ingredient is the same. What may differ are the inactive ingredients. When three pharmacists in Lubbock were asked if they had received complaints about generic antihistamines, they said, "No."

Try the generic product. Carefully monitor your reaction to the drug and see if you think it works as well for you. You might even want to try several types before settling on the best one for you. Talk to your pharmacist. Let the expert be your guide to saving you a lot of money.

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