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What You Might Not Know About Generic Drugs

PHOTO: Gary Leppla, Attorney at Law
PHOTO: Gary Leppla, Attorney at Law
August 28, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - Across the country, dozens of lawsuits against manufacturers of generic drugs have been dismissed because of a decision by the Supreme Court a year ago that makes it all but impossible to sue drug-makers for failing to provide adequate warning of a drug's dangers. Name-brand manufacturers are required by the FDA to update their labels when new safety issues arise, but makers of generics are not.

Attorney Gary Leppla of Dayton, Ohio, represented the family of a young woman who had an adverse reaction to a drug and died. He says this is not a good situation.

"So, it's got a tremendous impact, and the threshold question is: Why should I be treated different as a consumer because I was required to have my prescription filled with a generic, as opposed to the original manufactured drug?"

Insurance companies say generic drugs save money and contain the same active ingredients as the brand names. But Leppla says you should ask your pharmacist if you're getting a generic.

"I think that consumers should be aware of this proposed legislation, which hopefully would level the playing field. I think that when we realize that 'big pharm' and insurance companies drive this train and the consumer has very little to say, that consumers need to gain information and to network."

He says it's critical to know what your health insurance plan tells your pharmacist to do.

"You have the drug manufacturers, insurance companies, really dictating medical practice. Doctors have the opportunity to be aware of the risks of various medications, and yet what is used to fill a prescription is not necessarily dictated by the doctor. It happens after it leaves the doctor's desk."

Nearly 80 percent of all prescriptions in the U.S. are filled with generic drugs. Proposed legislation now in Congress would require makers of generics to update their warning labels when a new safety issue arises.

The Supreme Court decision referred to is Pliva v. Mensing. The legislation is S 2295 and HR 4384.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN