Generic drugs – a modern-day curse…

I’ve done nothing different today than yesterday and yet, while I’m still in fluctuating moderate pain, the extreme pain of yesterday is so far absent. Which makes me wonder…

I’ve known for some years that the quality of generic drugs leaves a lot to be desired but, luckily, my local pharmacy still dispenses the Ventolin inhaler, not the extremely dodgy generic Salbutamol version and, of course, I have to be maintained on the version of Phyllocontin I was stabilised on, and they are the main planks of my COPD meds.

And before someone jumps in and tells me Ventolin is Salbutamol, I know, but generic Salbutamol is not Ventolin by a country mile.And that’s where the danger lies.

Did you ever make salt in chemistry class in school, and be taught that there are several ways to wind up with a product you could legitimately label “Salt”? They all tasted salty but, at some level, differed chemically from each other depending upon the reagents used. The same thing applies to generic drugs. There are multiple ways to wind up with a fine, white, powder called Salbutamol – sadly, not all are equally effective but no-one gives a shit and there are, as I’ve explained, no controls.

Other inhalers. In addition to being varyingly crappy, are a minefield of inaccurate metering and failing valve mechanisms – every generic inhaler I was issued with in APH failed within days. Unfortunate, as it took weeks to get replacements, and some never came.

This, however, is my first venture into serious pain control, and I’m wondering if the wildly varying levels of pain I’m experiencing are nothing to do with my condition, and everything to do with extremely poor-quality drugs.

This is how the generic market works. I buy a container-load of, say, piss-poor quality Gabapentin (which is what I think I have right now), and put in my application for a licence to distribute the drug. It can take a year or more for my application to be processed, and the requisite inspections of my premises – assuming I have any – to take place but, and this is the killer – probably literally in many cases – I don’t have to wait for that to happen, I can start trading as soon as I submit my licence application and fee.

By the time my application reaches the top of the heap, I’ve made my fortune and am long gone (the above is based on a BBC TV investigation a few years ago).

This is why generic drugs are so unreliable – there are zero controls on either manufacture (almost never in UK), or distribution. It’s simply a wild-west route to fast money.

It is also, I believe, at least one of the reasons why so many disabled people are dying or, if they’re lucky, simply getting worse, like me.

And their unreliable quality might also be responsible for the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections but, of course, nobody wants to go down that road when it’s far easier to restrict the prescribing of antibiotics, forcing people like me, who are highly dependent on them, to buy their own.

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4 thoughts on “Generic drugs – a modern-day curse…

  1. Oh! I am going to look into my drugs and inhalers now. I know that I get Ventolin, always, and John has just started on Ventolin for his COPD. He’s only been taking the inhaler for two weeks, I’m not saying it is the inhaler, but he’s definitely been worse these last few days.
    Goes off to investigate all prescription meds…

    • If John has genuine Ventolin, not generic Salbutamol, then he shouldn’t have a problem. He does need a Volumatic spacer, though, to make the best of it. And he could be worse because of the weather. It doesn’t bother me but it apparently bothers everyone else! He almost certainly needs a steroid inhaler, too, if he hasn’t got one already.

      And, of course, COPD does fluctuate and is prone to flare-ups – infections. These are self-starting, rather than caught from an outside source, when infected sputum multiplies out of control. He can, of course, catch bugs just like everyone else!

      He needs to get used to using a sputum pot too (wash and keep small yoghurt pots and their lids, or whatever), not swallowing the gunk. It’s not pleasant, and a lot of people are squeamish about it, but it’s the healthiest option.

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