The Internet can be a veritable plethora of data… if you remember to look

I found out some interesting information about my depression medication today, quite unexpectedly so. So I was on my health insurance website looking for something completely unrelated, and all my information is now online there, which is pretty cool. It even has my complete prescription history. While glancing at it (only glancing, since I knew what was on there, right?) I noticed that the generic name of my Wellbutrin was spelled incorrectly. Then I looked closer and… it wasn’t spelled incorrectly – the generic is actually different than what I thought it was. The drug in Wellbutrin is bupropion, and my generic is budeprion. You can see why, after nine months, I wouldn’t have caught this.

Curious, I do some research on the internet about this budeprion. Sure enough, it’s a generic substitute for Wellbutrin, so that’s all good. But the second result is to a community board of people wondering about the difference between the generic and the brand name, and effectiveness. Time after time, I read how people had been put on the generic and it didn’t work as well for them, often with really bad side effects (I was actually starting to feel lucky that I didn’t experience any negative side effects when I switched). Beyond the really strong side effects that some people had, which seemed to be out of the norm, the complaints fell into two categories. One, 300mg of the generic wasn’t nearly as strong as 300 of the brand name, and two, the generic doesn’t have the coating the brand name does, which seriously affects the absorption rate (causing some people to have side effects like nausea and racy feelings). That last one seems particularly troubling, since the reason I take the XL (or SR, I don’t remember which is which) is because it’s extended release.

When I switched back in the fall (because that nifty plan of the Governor’s to save us money by getting the brand names from Canada stopped including Wellbutrin, or any drugs vaguely related to mental health, that I can tell), I didn’t expect any change. We can rule out the placebo effect, because I assumed the generic would work the same and life would be dandy. It wasn’t for a few months that I realized I was more tired than I used to be. Of course, at first I chalked it up to being back in school and being more busy and so forth. But it wasn’t like that – it was more like before I was on meds, that general need to get more sleep (of course, before meds I “required” 10-12 hours of sleep, and then with them I can function on 6-7, and with the generic it feels more like 8, if that helps you understand what I mean). I finally put two and two together and realized it was more than likely the generic. No biggie – I was still doing much better than if I wasn’t taking anything, and I didn’t even toss around the idea of going in to my doctor to ask about it.

Now, however, I will be asking her about this at my annual check-up in June. (See how un-alarming this recent discovery is? If I was really, truly concerned, I suppose I’d bump up my annual and go now.) Add it to the list of things to ask her about, including the “rules” for taking the pill for maximum birth control effectiveness (having never cared before). The bummer is that while my insurance will most likely let me switch back to the brand name (with a doctor’s written note), the website won’t tell me how much the co-pay would be (it’s got this cool “calculate my co-pay” function, but it just comes up with question marks for the Wellbutrin and budeprion and bupropion. I kinda care, if the difference is big, which is possible since my generic co-pay is $15/month.

Well, now that I’ve bored you all with details you probably didn’t care at all about, I’ll let you go back to living your life. Lesson learned? If you’re prone to mis-reading words like I am, check your generic prescription label a bit more closely. If I had done that back in September, I would have figured this all out much sooner.