Changes in generic pill color and shape disrupt use

Generic versions of the same prescription drug are clinically interchangeable but often look different depending on the manufacturer. The FDA does not require consistent pill appearance among interchangeable generic drugs, and the shape and color of patients' pills may vary based on the particular supply at the patient's pharmacy. Studying a national cohort of patients who recently suffered a heart attack, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have found that variation in appearance of generic drugs is associated with a greater risk of patients stopping their essential post-heart attack drugs. These findings are published on July 14, 2014 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"After have a first heart attack, guidelines mandate treatment with an array of long-term medications and stopping these medications may ultimately increase morbidity and mortality," explains Aaron S. Kesselheim, MD, JD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at BWH and senior investigator of this study. "Medications are essential to the treatment of cardiovascular disease and our study found that pill appearance plays an important role in ensuring patients are taking the that they need."

In a large national insurance database, the researchers collected records of over 10,000 patients discharged between 2006 and 2011 after hospitalizations for heart attacks who initiated treatment with generic beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin-II-receptor blockers, or cholesterol-lowering statins. They then looked for breaks in medication refilling (non-adherence) and they determined whether the pill appearance had changed in the prior two prescriptions. They found that the odds that a patient would discontinue use or not refill their medication increased by 34 percent after a change in color and 66 percent after a change in pill shape.

"The association between changes in pill appearance and non-adherence to essential cardiovascular medications has important implications for public health," explained Kesselheim. "This study suggests the need for physicians and pharmacists to proactively warn patients about the potential for these changes, and reassure them that generic drugs are clinically interchangeable no matter how they look, especially in light of the prevalent use of and importance of promoting patient adherence to essential medications."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FDA approves generic version of celebrex

Jun 03, 2014

(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave its approval to the first generic version of the pain reliever Celebrex (celecoxib).

Recommended for you

Express Scripts turns to AbbVie in huge hepatitis C deal

8 hours ago

The nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager is throwing its weight into the fight over high-cost hepatitis C drugs with a coverage restriction that might ultimately lower prices and improve patient access ...

FDA OKs Cubist antibiotic for serious infections

Dec 20, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new medicine to fight complex infections in the abdomen and urinary tract, the fourth antibiotic the agency has approved since May.

Xtoro approved for swimmer's ear

Dec 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—Xtoro (finafloxacin otic suspension) eardrops have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat swimmer's ear, clinically known as acute otitis externa.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.