Health Inc.

Generics Get Another Look, As Brands Lose Luster

Does a brand name boost your trust in a medicine?

Infant Tylenol

hide captionThis painkiller for babies is one of the medicines just recalled by Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson

In the wake of Johnson & Johnson's latest big recall of over-the-counter medicines due to quality problems, the New York Times reports that some consumers are rethinking the value of brands and reconsidering generics.

In case you missed it, J&J's McNeil unit said late Friday that it was recalling a bunch of kids' medicines, including several varieties of the painkillers Tylenol and Motrin and allergy medicines Zyrtec and Benadryl.

J&J doesn't think there's a medical risk, but the products failed to meet manufacturing standards — from too much active ingredient to contamination with tiny particles of debris. In January, the FDA faulted the same J&J unit for contamination with a musty-smelling chemical, saying then the company hadn't done enough to investigate and resolve quality problems quickly.

So what's a worried parent to do? The Times quoted a tweet (!) from Kevin Kowalski, an "Everydad," who chimed in over the weekend with:

Another recall for baby tylenol! well, then no more baby tylenol, back to generic brand.

For good measure, we found our own tweet from an Atlanta mom who goes by "houseofhood". Her take:

Thank goodness ours is all generic. Massive kids med recall by McNeil (Tylenol/Motrin)

We're not sure a few tweets and some Facebook chatter constitute a full-blown trend, but there's no good reason not to consider generics as an alternative. You'll save money, for starters, and you'll have plenty of company. Pharmacists now fill three-quarters of prescriptions in the U.S. with generics.

The Food and Drug Administration pulled together some "facts and myths" about generic prescription drugs not long ago to address some common misconceptions. Although the J&J recall concerns over-the-counter medicines, the principles are the same.

On the safety question, FDA says the agency is just as vigilant in policing generic drugs as it is brand-name medicines. Further, the agency doesn't receive many reports of trouble with "specific generic drugs," instead the adverse events tend to be about side effects tied to the drug ingredient.

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