Living Below Your Means
Random, Long-overdue Rant about Drug Rebranding

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By LudditeAndroid
September 21, 2005

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At another board, somebody asked about some different drugs they may try for insomnia. I answered the question then went off on a tangent about unethical drug rebranding. It made me think of some of the things we talk about here, so I'm posting the full rant here also. Just skip the first few sentences about the sleeping pills:

As a pharmacy technician, I'm going to add another vote for Trazadone (the generic for Desyrel) as the first thing to try. Don't bother with the more expensive stuff unless you have to. Trazadone has been around a long time, so it's a low-cost generic and the side effects are very well-known. You may not see ads for it, but the companies only advertise things they have an exclusive patent on, even if it's no better than preexisting drugs. A lot of drug ads are for items that are just a clever (but infuriatingly sleazy) repackaging of an existing drug that's about to go off patent. I'll give some examples:

Tricor 200 was repackaged as Tricor 160 then replaced with Tricor 145. Tricor 80 became Tricor 54 then Tricor 48. Every time the patent was about to expire, they reformulated the exact same drug into pills that would dissolve better so they could package a "new" drug with a lower standard dose. Then they pulled the higher strength pill completely off the market before the patent expired (meaning no generic legally made yet). This left doctors with no choice but to either switch to the new one or switch the patient to another drug altogether. All so the [expletive deleted] at the Abbot drug company could strong-arm more money out of people.

Same thing with osteoporosis drugs. Fosamax used to be a once daily pill. Right before it was to go off patent, they repackaged it as a slower-dissolving once-weekly pill and continued charging brand-name prices on it. Now those ads you see for once-monthly Boniva? THAT'S FOSAMAX, repackaged as a still-way-overpriced once-monthly pill. Meanwhile all these people on drug plans and public assistance could be taking a generic form of once-daily Fosamax and everyone's health insurance premiums and taxes could drop.

Actonel (another once-weekly osteoporosis drug) now has "Actonel with calcium". All that is, is a normal Actonel prescription with a month's worth of cheap little over-the-counter calcium tablets included in the package. What a COLOSSAL waste of all of our money that is. You could get on generic Actonel (risedronate sodium) when it comes off patent soon and buy generic OTC calcium separately, and save a huge amount of money in the long run. But that would be using logic, which has no place in healthcare spending.

The list go on an on, and doctors just go along with it, and drug coverage plans just get more and more expensive for all of us because of it. Grrrr.

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