“I have a lot of experience when patients of mine come and say, “I was taking a green pill and now it’s pink. What’s going on?” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Kesselheim is the lead author of a study that looked at people who got their seizure medications refilled on time to those who did not. The researchers found that changes in pill color between prescriptions did not happen often, but there was a difference between people who filled their prescriptions and those who did not. Pill color can change when a prescription switches to a generic drug, from a brand-name one. This confusion can lead to some patients being hesitant about taking the medication. “If they are taking nine medicines, they get at least 36 ‘opportunities’ a year to experience a color change,” wrote Dr.Kenneth Covinsky, associate editor of JAMA Internal Medicine. He adds that it’s “absolutely senseless and absurd” to put patients at that risk. “Equivalent generic medicines should be required to look like their brand-name counterparts,” he wrote.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says generic drugs must be essentially as effective as brand-name drugs, but may be different in color, size and shape. The Generic Pharmaceutical Association, which represents generic drug manufacturers and distributors said in a statement to Reuters Health, “we manufacture our products and receive approval from the FDA based on consistency with the regulations and standards established by the FDA.” In an accompanying editorial, Lawrence Yu and Dr. Gregory Geba of the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs wrote that they have begun to include a drug’s physical appearance in reviews. Kesselheim added that until there is a better answer, patients need to know that a pill’s clinical impact doesn’t change just because it looks different…. Reuters Health   1/3/13

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