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Aster's avatar

Anyone now believe brand name pills work better than generics?

Asked by Aster (18319points) January 18th, 2013

So I was taking a good, Walmart blue gel cap for sleep twice per week. They worked well so I looked on Amazon for a much cheaper bottle of the same ingredients and had nightmares and didn’t sleep well. Then I got our local store brand of the same ingredient and each and every time I take one I sleep non-stop for at least eight hours. I wonder if Unisom makes them? My mother always claimed generics were not as good as brand names. What is your opinion? I realize I haven’t mentioned taking a brand name on this q; they’re too expensive.

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12 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It depends on the generic. Sometimes they work fine and other times they don’t. Sometimes they work for some people and not for other people.

You just have to try.

Pachy's avatar

I recently read that, as @marinelife says, some do and some don’t. I don’t think they’re regulated as closely.

Shippy's avatar

I have heard there are less negative side effects with the original drug. No idea why though.

blueiiznh's avatar

This is a case by case situation.
To be certified a “generic” by the Food and Drug Administration, a drug has to have the same “active ingredient” as its brand name equivalent. The generic also has to have an efficacy rate similar to that of a name brand, usually within a 20 percent range.
The main difference between the two is that store/brands can contain additives, which will have side effects. And generics might be absorbed differently in the body (gel caps compared to pills, for instance), which affects efficacy.
Bottom line, check with your doctor and monitor and ADR’s.

FDA’s Orange Book of Equivalence

Buttonstc's avatar

By law, genetics must contain the identical chemical equivalent.

However, all medications contain fillers (supposedly inert) to enable them to be formed into tablets or capsules and as long as they’re proven safe ingredients, they can pretty much be anything, regardless of what was in the original.

But many times these adfitional ingredients are what’s different. Obviously these additions are not as universally inert as supposed. They affect people differently.

And if you have a Time-Release formulation, all bets are off.

There have been studies done (with appropriate double blind protocols) proving a significant difference in efficacy in time release heart medications particularly. That’s why Insurance companies have a list of certain brand name products for which they will pay. Heart medications are nothing to fool around with.

Buttonstc's avatar

You mentioned Unisom specifically and there’s an interesting aspect of that. Look it up on Wiki.

Most OTC sleep aids contain Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or another antihistamine.

Benadryl has been around for half of forever and is very safe and mostly free from side effects. The same cannot be said for other types of sleep aids.

You should read the back of the box carefully to get the generic name. If it’s Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) I’m betting it’s not the one which gave you side effects.

Do you still have the box for the one giving you problems?

BTW. Unisom is way way overpriced. You would be far better off with a SINGLE ingredient sleep aid (and Diphenhydramine is cheap as dirt) so look at the chemical name in small print and ignore whatever other name they’ve slapped on it whether it’s Walmart or not. That’s totally irrelevant. You want to read the name of the generic ingredients which ideally should be only one. That way you know what you’re dealing with.

nicole29's avatar

@buttonstc Actually, I can tell you, as a fourth year pharmacy student – that diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is actually very un-safe. It causes a whole host of anticholinergic side effects (dry mouth, constipation, vision changes, sedation, urinary retention, dizziness) It’s actually on the Beer’s list of medications not approrpriate for elderly patients due to increased likeliness of falls. I took it a few months ago for the first time since I was a kid, and can’t believe that it’s OTC.

I’m not sure of your health status or age, @Aster but it’s actually probably a good idea to talk to your doctor about whatever sleep aids you might be taking.

As others have said, the generics must have the same active ingredients and be “bioequivalent”. Essentially, they test to see that the duration of action and time to onset between a drug (considered generic) and the brand is within the range of 80% to 125%. Therefore, basically, the generic can be less or more “potent” so long as it’s within a given range. They should be “equal”, but may not affect you, personally, in the same way.

Also, what others said about the additives are correct. Different excipients (inactive ingredients) may lend different properties to the drug. I usually buy the generic, but everyone responds differently. Sometimes it works the other way though – and people can’t handle the brand name drug, and need a generic.

Buttonstc's avatar


Your objection to Benadryl and likelihood of falling for the elderly is true BECAUSE it causes mild drowsiness.

Can you name ANY sleep aids (either prescription or OTC) which would not carry the same risks? It kinda comes with the territory, right?

Drowsy = possible risk of falls.
Therefore, don’t get out of bed.

Any of the older antihistamines carry the same POTENTIAL side effects which you listed. Some of the newer ones don’t but they have weird side effects all their own.

I’ve been taking Benadryl for years with no ill effects at all. I always list it along with my other medications and never once had any Dr. bat an eyelash over it or comment in any unfavorable way EVER.

And it has been Drs. (not Pharmacists) who have commented that it has a long track record of safety and efficacy. I didn’t just pull that out of my ass or create it from whole cloth.

Out of the whole host of questionable crap that they put into OTC sleep stuff, it’s one of the oldest and most well known ingredients without any nasty surprises, hence my recommendation of a single ingredient product rather than the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach so favored by marketing Depts. nowadays so that they can claim more effectiveness for the widest range of symptoms possible.

To claim that Benadryl is one of the most Un-safe is a bit hyerbolic and I seriously doubt you’ll find Drs. in general agreeing with you. Don’t take my word for it. Ask a few. I’d be really surprised in one saying it was one of the most un-safe without any prompting from you. Very surprised indeed.

Btw: A preference for single ingredient OTCs was another hint passed on to me by Drs. (an Allergist and a Pulmonologist, to be precise) since you can more easily pinpoint what exactly is responsible for any unwanted effects.

Of course @Aster might be well advised to speak to her Dr. about this, but I seriously doubt there is any prescription sleep aid safer than Benadryl. And I’m betting he would very likely either suggest it as first choice or advise taking nothing at all.

And since you evidently had a negative experience with it, you should stay away from it :)

Aster's avatar

I do take Benedryl often and I hope a side effect is sleepiness and risk of falling or else I doubt it would help me sleep. Often, the Benedryl generic doesn’t work very well (meaning my thoughts won’t stop) and I take one mg of sublingual Melatonin with it. More than one mg and the Melatonin is worthless to me.
Our store’s generic Unisom is one powerful sleep aid and I take it twice a week.
The risk of falling with no drug in our system at 4am is very real. But when Nature calls what can we do?

Buttonstc's avatar


When you refer to “our store” could you clarify which one you mean?

Aster's avatar

I’m sorry. The chain grocer 3 miles up the road.

Buttonstc's avatar

But which chain? If they really work that well, I’m curious :)

I’m assuming you live in USA, right?

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