May 7, 2012


   A couple of months ago my dad was in town for a quick visit. As it so happened this coincided with my supply of ibuprofen running out. So we made a quick trip to the pharmacy.
   For years I've been buying my pain killers from Costco. They have at least 3 versions of ibuprofen that I am aware of. Kirkland Signature branded, Advil and Motrin IB. For a long time we were buying the house brand because it is less expensive and you get loads of it. In fact the last time we bought this hulk of a bottle we had to throw away a significant portion of it because it expired.
   After that incident my wife and I decided that we should try the Advil branded version. Mostly because it was large while not being overly large. We were fairly confident at the very least that we wouldn't be paying for so much that it would end up in the trash.
   The first thing that we noticed with the Advil brand is that it effected our headaches faster. It also lasted longer. It cost more for sure but we were able to finish our first bottle before it expired. So we had a positive experience all around despite the added cost.
   It ran out about the time my dad was in town. In a rush we needed some more and so we went to the pharmacy. I reached out for the Advil and my dad stopped me. He pointed out that the pharmacy brand was less expensive and you got a heckuvalot more. At this point I was not yet totally convinced of the efficacy of Advil. I figured it could have been in my head. So I conceded. I bought this outrageously large bottle of generic ibuprofen.
   Over the following weeks my wife was taking a lot of pain killers. Basically she hurt her tailbone pretty bad giving birth to our son. She was very sore for a long time. She first brought to my attention that she was taking more drugs. She said that she was concerned that she was getting used to ibuprofen because she found that she was taking more of it much more often. Essentially she was taking 4 pills every 2-3 hours instead of her previous 2 pills every 4-6. She was getting really concerned.
   I occasionally get headaches. Mostly they are related to occasionally drinking caffeine. So I took some one night. It was right around bed time. I was starting to feel a pretty massive headache coming on. I took 4 pills and waited it out. Nothing happened. When I say nothing I mean that 2 hours later the headache was hitting me full power and I had to take 4 more pills when I went to bed. I woke up with a headache. It was around that time my wife told me to throw that stuff away and go get some Advil.
   Ever since I've been thinking about why those and other generic drugs don't seem to work as well as name brand products. I think it has to do with reputation. Think of it like the Tylenol company. They are a company named after a single product. If the quality of that product became bad they would lose a lot of reputation and a lot of money along side it. Because of this I am willing to bet these manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their product is of the highest quality standards.
   Conversely generic manufacturers have no reputation to uphold. The label that will ultimately end up on the outside of the bottle doesn't have their name on it. It has the name of the store they are making the product for. So there really isn't any reason to go to any great length to ensure quality of product. Cutting corners increases revenue.
   I don't want to throw a blanket over all drugs and say the generics are never as good. I would say that for the most part they are not as good though. I don't use a lot of drugs but those that I do I prefer the name brand.
   This past weekend I had a cold. I found in our drug cabinet 2 Sudofed generics. They were both said to be 12 hour pills. Neither of them lasted more than 6 and their level of effectiveness was definitely in question. Late in the evening I asked the wife to get me some real Sudofed. She bought a pack of the 24 hours stuff. I took it 13 hours ago and am still feeling fine.
   The lesson here is somewhat anecdotal I'll admit. However I'll be sticking to the name brand stuff for drugs.