This morning, the Los Angles Times published a story focusing on the ongoing debate over whether generic medications are really “just as good” as their branded counterparts. For many years, arguments that generics are not appropriate substitutes for expensive branded medications have been dismissed as drug industry propaganda. However, anecdotal (and some scientific) evidence indicates that generics are not truly “bioequivalent.”
According to the LA Times: “A switch from a long-used brand-name drug to its generic equivalent can, on occasion, bring a shifting profile of side effects. In a number of cases documented in medical journals and recounted in interviews with physicians, a generic version of what is often called a ‘pioneer’ drug simply doesn't appear to work as well for many patients.”
Two areas where generic drugs don’t appear to do as well as branded medications are epilepsy and depression. Last year, American Epilepsy Society urged the FDA to conduct a study in order to determine “once in for all” whether generic medications increase epilepsy patients’ risk of seizures and adverse events.
This Looks Like A Job For . . . Social Media
Currently, there is little widespread clinical evidence that generic medications are not truly equivalent to their branded counterparts. I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of social media to highlight and organize information about drug treatments. If the “signals” from social media are strong enough, this may indicate that further study is needed.
Regarding the debate over generics, I think social media can help in two areas:
1. Determining whether physicians in the US and globally are seeing major differences in the safety and efficacy of many generic and branded medications.
2. Highlighting patient reports of their experiences after being switched from a brand name drug.
So, are there social media companies (focusing on health) willing to help me answer these two questions? If so, I’d love to hear from you. If we get enough data from various sources, it might even be worth putting out a press release about our findings in order to inform the ongoing debate. If companies are interested in working with me to conduct this experiment, please leave a comment below.