Are Generic Drugs as Good as Name Brand?

In some cases, a lower price can come with a prescription for health issues

Ashley Abramson
Elemental
Published in
8 min readJul 23, 2019

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Illustration: Carolyn Figel

AtAt first, she blamed the exhaustion on her stage of life. It wasn’t abnormal for Shannon Dingle, a 27-year-old mother of two young children, to feel tired. She had also been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid caused by Hashimoto’s disease, but the possibility of relapse seemed unlikely. While fatigue is a symptom of an underactive thyroid, Dingle’s health had been under control since she started taking Synthroid, a brand-name thyroid drug. She wondered if she might have postpartum depression since her youngest son was just a year old.

Then Dingle’s pharmacist spoke up. A few months prior, a new doctor had prescribed a generic version of Synthroid. When Dingle complained about her worsening symptoms after the change in prescription, the doctor ordered labs, which confirmed that, for the first time since starting treatment, her thyroid levels had plummeted. The doctor upped her dose of the generic and sent her home.

What Dingle needed, though, wasn’t a higher dose of new generic medicine, but the effectiveness of the brand-name drug. “When I went to pick up the new dose, the pharmacist took a minute to look at my prescriptions, then confirmed that my levels had changed after…

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Ashley Abramson
Elemental

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.