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Generic vs. Branded Drugs

Currently, there are multiple pharmaceutical companies that manufacture a generic formulation of carbidopa/levodopa, dopamine agonists, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and anticholinergics. The FDA requires that generic drugs show an essential similarity to the branded drug prior to market approval, but in rare cases this standard is not high enough.

A review supported by the Parkinson’s Foundation chronicles compelling evidence if you are in more advanced stages of the disease, switching from branded drugs to generic or from one generic to another, may have somewhat variable effects. The authors, including Parkinson’s Foundation National Medical Director Dr. Michael S. Okun, believe that the standards for approving generic drugs for PD may not be strict enough to demonstrate that the generic alternatives are equally effective.

Work with your physician to develop a tailored treatment plan. Using generic drugs will likely provide a cost savings, and only infrequent cases could you require brand medication.

If you make the switch, follow these tips:

  • Report to your physician on the effectiveness of the drugs. 
  • Carefully keep a diary of any side effects.
  • Record dose adjustments your physicians make (higher or lower).
  • Try to stay with a single drug manufacturer for your generic medications. You may need to ask your pharmacist to special order for you.

When attempts to tailor drug therapy with a generic drug have been unsuccessful, have your doctor appeal to the insurance company for a branded drug. It is important to include details of the various adverse side effects with the generic medication in your appeal letter.

Page reviewed by Dr. Chauncey Spears, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.

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