Thursday, December 2, 2010

trade secrets: generic vs brand {part 2 - Birth Control}

Women everywhere are concerned about the cost of prescription medications, but none are willing to compromise on quality or safety, particularly when it comes to oral contraceptives (also known as the pill). In the past, physicians were limited to prescribing brand name oral contraceptives. Now, a number of generic equivalents pills that contain identical ingredients to the brand name oral contraceptives and the exact doses are available at lower costs.

So...the question you come back to is: Can I trust a generic birth control?
As I have stated in part 1, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes the quality of generic medications seriously. Remember generic drugs must prove their active ingredients are "therapeutically equivalent" to the original product.

In fact each generic medication is laboratory-tested to ensure that the same amount of drug is absorbed into the bloodstream as with the brand name medication. Generic medications can, however, contain different inactive ingredients, such as preservatives, dyes, and binders. These inactive ingredients are combined with the active ingredients for a number of reasons, including to keep tablets from breaking in the bottle or to ensure that the medicine dissolves properly once in the body. Thus, the generic oral contraceptive may be a different shape or color, but the quality and effectiveness are the same as the original medicine...and at a lower cost.

What else should I know about my oral contraceptive?

Whether generic or brand name, most oral contraceptives are supplied in a pack: a cardboard or foil blister pack or a plastic dispenser containing a 28-day supply of medication. The packaging is designed to help you keep track of your daily dose. Most oral contraceptive packs have 21 active pills and 7 "dummy" or placebo pills.

The pills for the last 7 days of the pack usually contain no active ingredients in order to allow you to have your period and to help you remember to take a pill each day. A few oral contraceptive packs contain only 21 active pills. When using these oral contraceptives, you must remember to start a new pack after you have been off the pills for 7 days. Some of the oral contraceptives with 28 pills contain an iron supplement to be taken during the last week of each month (an example of an oral contraceptive containing an iron supplement is Loestrin Fe). Others provide very small doses of estrogen during some of the usual placebo-pill days (Mircette and Kariva). Some pill packs may contain more than 1 color tablet. Even though several of the pills are a different color, they are not necessarily placebos (dummy pills). These packs, known as biphasic or triphasic oral contraceptives, contain different combinations of the same hormones. Examples of triphasic pills are Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Enpresse, and Triphasil.

Regardless of the type of oral contraceptive pill your physician has prescribed, it is essential to take all the pills in the correct order. Each pack of oral contraceptives comes with a patient information leaflet that provides you with information on how to take your pills safely and what to do in case you miss pills -- this is a big one. Do yourself a favor and save one leaflet of your BC pills. Put it in your medicine cabinet, your jewelry box, your Target receipt basket {am I the only one?}...just keep it. And anytime you have a question, you should also contact your health care provider or a pharmacist.

As with all medications, oral contraceptives may interact with other drugs and with nutritional supplements. Because generic products are equivalent to brand name products, these warnings apply to all oral contraceptives. Always ask your pharmacist or health care provider about potential drug interactions when starting any new medicine. The following medications should be used carefully when taking oral contraceptives:

-Antibiotics {careful here....this one interaction extends the family tree most often}

-Antituberculosis agents

-Antifungal agents

-Antiseizure medications

*Hmm....lots of "A" groups of meds* is an incomplete list of a few generic examples for you. I will add to these once I find my notes. I have SOOO many notes. :)

Examples of Generic Oral Contraceptives

Apri (same as Desogen and Ortho-Cept 28)
Aviane (same as Alesse-28)
Lessina (same as Levlite 28)
Necon (same as Ortho-Novum 1/35)
Ogestrel (same as Ovral)
Sprintec (same as Ortho-Cyclen-28)
Microgestin Fe (same as Loestrin Fe)
Kariva (same as Mircette)
Enpresse (same as Triphasil-28)

Feel free to share away with friends and family or not. Either way, it will be our little secret.


  1. GRRRRRrrrrrr.... UGh. You mean, I have been taking Loestrin 24 all this time, paying $30 a month, when I could have had a perfectly good generic??? Why in the world didn't anyone mention this? I was being to think it would be cheaper to just have another baby! lol
    Going to call the Dr's office tomorrow to see if they can call in a generic RX. Thanks for all the detailed info. It is SO appreciated!

  2. Yes, but is there a generic for NuvaRing yet? Your knowledge is much appreciated; thanks for sharing!

  3. I have got some bad news...NuvaRing will not go generic till April 2018. So sorry my dear.



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