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Differences in Drug Products

Although standards to ensure strength, quality, purity, and bioequivalence exist for drug products, the standards allow for variations in certain factors that may produce other differences from product to product. These product variations may be important to some patients, since not all patients are “equivalent.” For example, the size, shape, and coating may vary and, therefore, be harder or easier for some patients to swallow; an oral liquid will taste good to some patients and bad to others; one manufacturer may use lactose as an inactive ingredient in its product, while another product may contain a different inactive ingredient; one product may contain sugar or alcohol while another product does not.

In deciding to use one therapeutically equivalent product over another, consumers should keep the following in mind:

•Consider convenience factors of drug products (for example, ease of taking a particular dosage form).

•Don’t overlook the convenience of the package. The package must protect the drug in accordance with USP requirements, but packages can be quite different in their ease of carrying, storing, opening, and measuring.

•If you have a known allergy or any type of dietary restriction, you need to be aware of the “inactive” ingredients that may be present in different medicines. These inactive ingredients may vary from product to product.

•Price is always a consideration. The price difference between products (e.g., different brands, or brands versus generics) may be a major factor in the overall price of a prescription. Talk to your pharmacist about price considerations.. Some states require that the pharmacist dispense exactly what is prescribed. However, other states allow the pharmacist to dispense less expensive medicines when appropriate.

Aside from differences in the drug product, there are many other factors that may influence the effectiveness of a medicine. For example, your diet, body chemistry, medical conditions, or other drugs you are taking may affect how much of a dose of a particular medicine gets into the body.

For the majority of drugs, slight differences in the amount of drug made available to the body will not make any therapeutic difference. For other drugs, the precise amount that gets into the body is more critical. For example, some heart or epilepsy medicines may create problems for the patient if the dose delivered to the body varies for some reason.

For those drugs in the critical category, it is a good idea to stay on the specific product you started on. Changes should only be made after a consultation with the health care professional who prescribed the medicine. If you feel that a certain batch of your medicine is more potent or does not work as well as other batches, or if you have other questions, check with your health care professional.

Drug Names

Every drug must have a nonproprietary name; a name that is available for each manufacturer to use. These names are commonly called generic names.

The FDA requires the generic name of a drug product to be placed on its labeling. However, manufacturers often use brand names in promoting their products. In general, brand names are shorter and easier to use than the corresponding generic name. The manufacturer then emphasizes its brand name (which cannot be used by anyone else) in advertising and other promotions. Often, the consumer may not realize that a brand name drug is also available under other brand names or by generic name. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about the names of your medicines.

Source: Health Net