A trip to the local supermarket often forces us to make some choices. For any given product, there are many options to choose from. Typically, only a couple of those options are considered brand name products, while the rest are considered generic. Whatever the product may be, the consumer usually wonders if they will get the same brand-name quality if they were to buy the generic version. Ultimately, the decision is guided by cost. The consumer may decide to pay less for the generic version because they expect it to be either identical or close enough to the quality of the brand name. However, other consumers might argue, “you get what you pay for”. These people are weary of the generic version, and will pay the extra money to ensure they are getting the quality product they are looking for. Today, people taking a trip to the pharmacy are also faced with the same decision, the choice between brand name and generic. Unfortunately, the decision to pay less may result in serious health problems.
Levetiracetam, an anticonvulsant medication, is a prime example of a generic drug that may cause its users to have serious health problems that have not been found with the use of its brand name counterpart. Keppra is the brand name drug used in the treatment of epilepsy for both adults and children. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999. Belgian drugmaker UCB Pharma Inc. is the manufacturer of Keppra. Their patents for Keppra, the brand name anticonvulsant medication, recently expired in 2009. Soon after the Keppra patents expired, several pharmaceutical manufacturers began producing cheaper, generic versions of Keppra.
Many pharmaceutical companies often begin making generic versions of brand name drugs because they can turn a good profit. Their products will be cheaper than the brand name because their company does not need to pay all the expenses associated with developing and marketing the drug. After a few of the pharmaceutical companies produce and sell the drug, the prices will begin to drop because all of the companies will be competing to be the cheapest.
Generic medications are tested and compared with their brand names. The FDA reviews the data to determine if the generic products are equivalent to the brand name. If they are, the FDA will assign an AB rating to the generic version. The FDA has given an AB rating to Levetiracetam, finding it to be the equivalent of brand name Keppra. Therefore, the generic versions are expected to provide the same quality and results as the brand name drugs. Although generic medications may be found by the FDA to be the equivalent of the brand names, this does not mean they are identical in composition. In fact, generic medications may contain some differences in inactive ingredients. The most common inactive ingredients that may differ in generic drugs are fillers or dyes. These ingredients may cause the patients to have allergic reactions or other side effects not experienced by them with use of the brand name drugs.
Mylan Pharmaceuticals is the producer of Levetiracetam, one of the generic versions of Keppra. The lower price tag for Levetiracetam has led many consumers to choose this generic brand. Also, many patients have begun purchasing generic Keppra because their insurance plans will no longer allow the name brand. However, without realizing it, patients who have switched to the generic brand may actually be putting themselves in harm's way because Levetiracetam has been linked to serious side effects. Patients who have been seizure free for long periods of time, years in some cases, have reported experiencing seizures after switching to the generic medication. Other patients have reported migraines and light-headedness. Any of these side effects may result in serious consequence if the patient is alone or operating a vehicle at the time of a reaction.
More often than not, a generic drug will perform just as effectively as the brand name. However, although rare, there are instances where patients may experience an allergic reaction or suffer serious side effects by taking the generic version instead of the brand name drug. To prevent these dangerous consequences, people should first ask their doctors if the generic drug they are taking has been known to produce any side effects or allergic reactions. Second, when people go to their local pharmacy to get their medications, they should ask their pharmacist the same question. Finally, patients should be aware that if they decide to pay less, they may be putting their health at risk. After all, in the case of Keppra and its generic counterpart (Levetiracetam), “you get what you pay for.”