Switching from brand-name to generic drugs may cost more than money

posted on:
June 28, 2010


A Pittsburgh woman claims she could have been spared radical brain surgery during which three inches of her brain was removed if her anti-seizure medication hadn’t been switched by her insurance company, causing her seizures to return. Melissa Linz says her health insurance provider made the switch to a generic version of her brand name medication to save money. But it was she who paid the ultimate price.

Generic drugs are tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if the active ingredient is equivalent. Often, these drugs have different inactive ingredients, such as dyes or fillers. While the differences are usually so subtle they cause no ill effects, for patients with neurological conditions, those minute differences can cause serious adverse effects.

One such example is the anti-seizure drug Keppra. Beginning in 2009, the FDA approved numerous generic versions of the medication. Many epileptics and patients with neurological disorders who had their seizure disorders managed with brand name Keppra were not even aware that their pharmacists, on orders from health insurance companies, made the switch to the generic “equivalent.”

For many, the switch resulted in severe headaches, a return of seizures, and other complications. For Melissa, switching to a generic caused her seizures to return and her to undergo radical brain surgery.

According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, over the past 10 years, generic substitutes for brand-name drugs have saved the insurers and the U.S. health system $731 million. But what has it cost consumers?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

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